We have just arrived back home from Djibouti, the shortest trip to Africa I think I have ever made. Spent one day on the ground and were lucky to get the chance to hang out with the people from the Desert Flower Foundation which works to eradicate FGM (female genital mutilation) worldwide. We met some very inspiring women and a wonderful man Walter who set the foundation up.
Long story short … there is a tradition in some of the African cultures that says a woman must be ‘cut’ in order to be pure, and therefore fit to marry. If she is not “cut’ then her peers bully her and she is treated as a whore. I use the term ‘cut’ because that is what they call it when they have their genitals mutilated when they are 3-6 years old or older. This does not happen in a Doctors office. One of the mothers sharpens a knife and does the job on her daughter along with others too. Obviously this is incredibly dangerous and could end up with an infection then possibly death.
Sometimes they sow the girls up too tightly and they suffer pains for years and years. The best news I got in Djibouti was that they have now made this practice illegal, but the mothers still want to ‘cut’ because the tradition runs so deep. They feel they are doing the right thing by their daughters. I guess the reality is they are unknowingly committing a crime of child abuse.
So Desert flower has a plan and their plan is working, they have saved 1000 girls from being cut. How did they do it? They make a deal with the parents where desert flower promise to pay all school fees for the girl if the parents promise not to cut them. They then have regular checks with a doctor to make sure everything is intact. They run solely off of donations. Fact is what they are doing is working. They are protecting these girls from a horrible experience and existence and on top of that wonderful gift they are ensuring they get an education.