Female genital mutilation – my story

By Kezia Bianca- YWCA of Kenya

Kezia Bianca

My name is Keziah Bianca, I am 22 years old and work at the YWCA of Kenya – Kisii branch. Kisii is a place renowned for practicing female genital mutilation and as a girl who grew up here, I was not an exception. I cannot blame my family for making me go through this inhuman act, as the society dictates it. In my culture it was considered unclean for a girl not to go through the practice.

The reason why I am writing this is to say to the girls who faced female genital mutilation like me, to still trust in life and a brighter future. It doesn’t matter what happened, or how your past has been, you can still have a future if you stand up and let your voice be heard. Talk about how you feel and also protect the young girls who may be facing the wrath of the knife as you and I did.

Allow me to take you through my personal experiences of Female genital mutilation (FGM) as I am a survivor of a clitoridectomy.

My community practices FGM type one which is partial or total removal of the clitoris, because they believe that the clitoris is unclean as it makes one sexually active. I strongly oppose this and believe that refraining from sexual relations before marriage is all about one’s attitude and values and it does not have anything to do with the removal of the clitoris.

I remember 7 years ago as if it was yesterday. The scar still remains fresh in me. I really didn’t want to go through FGM, but because in my village all the girls of my age set had gone through it, I didn’t have any option but to follow the community traditions and it’s the community that dictates, not you. It was on the 7th December 1997 when all this happened to me. It was 5 in the morning when I heard some women talking outside our house. I didn’t know that they had come for me, to create a scar of a lifetime. Innocently like a sheep to be taken to a slaughter house, one woman came and told me that I should wake up as it was my day to become a woman. I didn’t believe my ears but because she insisted, I woke up. I felt some kind of fear and felt like my whole body had frozen. She took me outside where women were singing songs and ululating. By that time my mother was nowhere to be seen, at least to see the state I was in and to help me. All I wanted at that particular point was to see her so that she could see the pain in my eyes and tell them to let me be. But I think she could not have helped me because she thought that it was a rite of passage that I should go through.

According to my community during this fateful day, your mother is not supposed to be present as they believe you will cry and call her for help and as a woman who bears the pain of giving birth, a mother can’t stand to see the pain that you are going through. Together with me in that group there was my friend, I could see in her eyes too the fear she had but we could not help each other as we were so young and were not given a chance to say NO. They sang songs while taking us behind our house and we were made to sit on a very cold stone. Because of the fear, I refused to be the first to sit so I stood there staring at the stone, and it was such a cold morning. My friend was made to sit first and I watched her go through the cut and this is one thing that is still fresh in my mind. Then after my friend it was my turn, they took a piece of cloth, tied it around my eyes and held my head back and then they gave me another piece which they put in my mouth so that I could bite it during the whole process to ease the pain. Two women held my legs and hands so tight that I could not move. Still from the background I could hear the women singing and I felt that they were celebrating my pain, but the real reason for the songs was to diffuse the cries so that nobody can hear me crying. Then I felt a very sharp pain between my legs. This was a turning point in my life. The pain I felt can’t be described; thinking of it brings cold shivers inside me. I was circumcised, I felt incomplete and completely out of control. I could not control the tears from my eyes as they spoke the magnitude of the pain that I was feeling. After that I was taken in a house where I sat in a room crying and cursed. The pain I was going through was unbearable. At the back of my mind so many questions were going through my head: what will happen after this? Will this pain ever leave my life? Will I be able to walk again in my life? So many questions crossed my mind. I was made to stay in that room for three weeks and was not allowed to shower for the entire three weeks. It was also not good for me to be seen as they believed that I would heal faster if nobody saw me, especially a man, except the special woman who was taking care of us. My life took a complete turn, I felt wasted and hopeless – the rest is history.

Because of the pain and agony I went through, it made me take the resolution to stand up and fight for the rights of the girl child. I believe that if by the time I underwent FGM, I had known its dangers I could not have gone through with it. That’s why I resolved to join the YWCA of Kenya and advocate for the rights of girls and young women and give them a future minus regrets, a future where they can stand up for their rights and the rights of others. A future where they can say No and be heard by society.

At the YWCA of Kenya – kisii branch, we have this programme where we train young girls from the age of 10 and above on alternative rights of passage, how to say NO to FGM and also on their rights as girls and young women. At the end of the training they graduate and are awarded with a certificate to show that they have gone through a stage of their life that qualifies them as circumcised but still gives them a chance to continue their education. We also train parents and circumcisers on the effects of FGM and what the law says about circumcising girls. The circumcisers are also taken through business skills training and ways of starting alternative income generating activities, as most of them claim that it’s only through circumcising girls that they feed their families. I can say that as an organisation we have played an important role in educating the community and the practice has drastically reduced, there are now minimal cases reported. We also have youth programmes where we empower them with information on their sexuality and how they can make a change in their communities.

FGM is an inhuman act which affects a girl’s biological make-up. As a girl I strongly believe that I have the responsibility to protect young girls from this act. To end these harmful practices and advance more equitable social harms, programmes and schools should address the issue early in the life of girls in order to alter the cultural expectations. Women and men should be made aware of the fact that living free of violence is a basic human right. Also, well-meaning parents who view FGM as a way to prepare daughters for marriage should change their behaviour and recognize that the practice is a violation of the rights of girls.

As a girl who went through FGM, I believe that there is a future for me and I have a purpose in life. My advice to all girls who experienced FGM is that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Life has to go on. Our society believes that once you have gone through FGM you are ready for marriage, but it all depends on your priorities and what you want from life. You can still bury your traditions and walk with your head up high. When I was circumcised I was only 15, I had a dream of educating my community on the dangers of FGM, and I wanted to be an example by telling them how it feels when you abuse the rights of the girl child. Let us come out openly and be ready to stand up for the rights of the girl child. it takes efforts to tell the world that FGM is outdated and outlawed. I am still accomplishing my dream and I can’t stop until FGM becomes history in our community.

Through the YWCA of Kenya, I was given an opportunity to be part of a youth exchange programme called Communication for Change (CFC). My new job in Norway allowed me to learn that you can make the change that you want to see in the world despite your background, your culture or your past. Before I joined this exchange programme, I still had faith that I could fight FGM on the community level without being ashamed to use my story as an example of the injustices that the girl child goes through. As a girl who went through FGM, don’t sit back fearing what the world will think about you now that you are circumcised. Stand up! Make your voice heard and help other young girls out there. It is my hope that this story will give you hope and convince you that  must still give a lot to the world to make a change.

54 Responses

  1. Thank you, Kezia, for telling your story and telling about your work and the work of the YWCA. Both are totally helpful in the great and noble work of empowering women!

  2. This is powerful..I respect and celebrate you for sharing your story..your story made the vocie of the younger girls facing the same fate audible..

  3. You’re quite brave for sharing your story. I too have struggled in dealing with my cliterodechtomy and the painful memories. I can’t reverse it, but I chose to write about it and raise more awareness and hopefully create/discover a support network among women who have undergone this unjust act. Good luck to you.

    • Maybe you dont this but let me help you here with information. It is reversible through a process called In – fibulation. Just find out more on google.

  4. Well done to you Kezia! What an inspiration you must be to those who have undergone FGC, for the most part, a neglected sector of society at a time when support is most needed. I hope other at risk girls and their mothers, fathers and communities can read your story and halt the huge momentum of tradition and decide to not continue this practice.

  5. Very inspirational, thank you for sharing your experiences Kezia. I am glad that you found the light at the end of the tunnel and that you helped other women do the same.

  6. Kezia, thank you for sharing such a personal experience with us. For those of us who don’t live in countries which practice FGM we often forget it as a form of gender-based violence. It is important that all countries, regardless of local traditions, join in the advocacy to end all forms of violence against women even if girls and women in our own countries don’t endure it. This must be a global fight! We must unite to end FGM!

  7. Thank you for having the courage to write about and work towards eradicating FGM. May you continue to find light in your life.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. this story will really give hope for those girls out there who are voiceless. I am proud of your courage and your initiative towards ending this inhuman act. we need to unite and advocate for women’s rights.

  9. Thank you Keziah for sharing your story… It takes courage. I’ve been looking for someone who went through this… I did too.. thanks for saying what I haven’t had the courage to say. I wish you the best in all you do and hope we can work together someday:)

  10. Thank you for the inspiration! We would like to re-post this helpful information.

  11. […] Female genital mutilation – my story Posted on May 23, 2012 by womenleadingchange […]

  12. an amazing woman – one day no more girls will go through this pain. please sign and share the petition http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-female-genital-cutting
    Thank you XX

  13. […] Kenya. Og no har eg møtt ei dame som blei kjønnslemlesta då ho var 15. Les historia hennar her: https://womenleadingchange.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/female-genital-mutilation-my-story/ Og Keziah, ho er den kulaste, søtaste, morsomste og tøffaste dama eg har møtt! Vi vitja ein […]

  14. Wow. Thank you for sharing your strength. What a beautiful and strong woman you are to turn this very scary experience into a learning tool for the empowerment of girls and women. I salute you.

  15. Oh my! Keziah …I admire your boldness to share your story. Thankyou for saving so many girls from going through the pain you once went through.

  16. I am so sorry that this has happen to you. I strongly appose FGM. I am soooo angry when I go to youtube and watch FGM. I pray that God will intervene to stop this and bring justice to those who force young women to go through this pain. If a woman choose to have FGM then that is there choice but it is wrong to force a woman or girl to have this done to them is againts human rights. What kind of a sick mother allows this to happen to her girls.

  17. Thank you for sharing your story, I am vey touched by this and very sorry you had to go through it.
    I have a question if you could answer it for me please. You said your community forced you? I would like to know what community it was?

    • Thank you all very much for taking time to read my article…every time i read your comments i feel encouraged and motivated to continue in the fight…please feel free to share this story so as it can help young girls out there who dont have the courage to speak up…together we can make FGM HISTORY. Thank you all.

  18. […] not be cut. They are sweet, but they are made of strong stuff.” Keziah has written a powerful blogpost here about her experiences and what she’s doing now. Happily, I saw Keziah again at YWCA training when […]

  19. You are such an amazing inspirational woman. I cannot give you enough credit for sharing this amazing story. You should be so proud of yourself and what you have done to help other young girls as well as change minds about this practice. It makes me sick at my stomach to know that this is still practiced, I feel terribly for anyone who has or will have to endure it. It’s people like you are making this world a better place and for that I thank you. :) I hope you’re doing well and that you continue to write of the progress being made!

  20. This is a powerful and utterly appalling story of a young woman’s experience of this barbaric practice. I admire Keziah for speaking out and campaigning against this.

    As much as we must empower young girls to say ‘No’, kids are not in a strong position to fight back. Every woman and man in these villages needs to be educated about what an abuse female genital mutilation is and how it denies women their rights. People who enforce this should really be brought before the courts, so everyone can see there is strong societal sanction against the practice. All strength to the Australian government’s campaign to make sure girls here do not suffer the same excruciating cruelty.

  21. it is really so sad that female genital mutilation is still happening around the world, and so much of it! even one is too much. it is up to all women and men to speak out against it and make sure that girls are safe from being hurt and robbed of their natural pleasure and health. I appreciate the women who speak out about their experiences and hope that we can get rid of this practise as soon as possible for everyone’s sake.

  22. Thank you for sharing your story Kezia, you’re an incredibly brave woman. I am currently writing my dissertation on FGM for my final year of my degree. Would it be okay to quote some of your story in it?

  23. Thank you for sharing your story. It is important to remind the world that this is still happening and needs to be stopped. I admire you for your strength and important work, all the power to you.

  24. Hi Kezia I have reblogged your post. I am trying to draw awareness to violence against women worldwide. I so appreciate you sharing you story. There are many people who are still unaware that these things are happening!

  25. What a awful thing to have went through but telling your story is extremely important to educating future generations. God bless you and I pray this practice will end very very soon.

  26. God bless you dear one. I am sorry you went through such a thing. I will pray ever so hard for such a thing to stop. Again, I am so sorry!

  27. this is really touching & inspiring.
    u are indeed a change agent in Kisii!

  28. If the circumcision of the male produced such horrendous results it would never have been allowed to exist as a ‘cultural custom’ for so long. Why do women always have to suffer for men’s pleasure and pride? It’s an absolute abomination- one which needs to be obliterated from the face of the earth.

  29. I am so sorry to hear what you went through. I believe that misogyny is a disease prevalent in the whole of society and FGM is a nasty, horrific example of this. I applaud you for your work, the strength you have shown. It is my sincere hope that people will realise the truth – it is a very sad fact that women are doing this to their own. I am dismayed to hear that in the UK healthcare workers, social workers and teachers are standing idle seeing children who have undergone this but do not see their duty to report what they witness. Very few convictions are made according to recent press. I hope you succeed in your quest. I hope to raise funds for a suitable initiative. This is a human rights issue and we must stand up to the violence experienced by girls and women throughout the world. My prayers are with you.

  30. Kezia thank you for sharing your experience, I’m proud of you and how this information would empower other young women. I dont just understand but know how difficult it must have been for emotional scars to heal, but its how we pull ourselves together and decide to be Agents of Change for both ourselves and others that always helps the process.

  31. You are both courageous and an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your painful memories and also how you are turning then into a force for the good of all girls at risk or who have undergone FGM.

  32. Thank you for your story Kezia. I pray for you to get the justice you deserve in this tragedy. God made us exactly how he wanted us to be and no man or culture has the right to change it! God Bless You and Good Luck in your fight.

  33. Good morning Kezia, I read your story and it was extremely moving and would like to ask for your assistance. I am writing a persuasive speech for my college in regards to FGM and would like to preform a small interview via email with you. Please let me know if you would be interested. Thank you for your time and for speaking out and telling your story.

  34. Kamille am very ok and let me know when you want us to have the interview…my email address is kezbwari@gmail.com

  35. thanks mah siz 4 being open lets all be open and face the reality that we face.our cry shall be heard

  36. thanks for getting all the information .I knew nothing about this female circumcicion thing.Today i have learnt more-DIsadvantages and Advantages.I liked this continue giving us answers when ever we have problems regarding life.

  37. Thank You for sharing, you are a true angel! god bless you, and your soul strength for enduring such an evil ordeal and remaining optimistic with your head held high. you are an inspiration!

  38. Dear Kezia, Thank you for your inspiring courage and powerful message! I really hope that your story moves more than the people who commented so far. The world is still lacking testimonies in order to convince the global community to join the fight against this practice. I am just sad to see that apparently I am the first man to respond to your blog. On our facebook page we do have quite a few male followers, so I will share your story (fully or in parts).
    If ever you have access to more testimonies, please let me know.
    Holger Postulart
    Executive director
    Global Alliance against FGM

  39. Thank you for sharing with us your experience with FGM. I understand that this is a delicate topic and takes a great deal of courage to discuss with others. I would like to have a personal interview with you (e-mailing is fine). I am writing a research paper in my college writing class and I am contemplating whether or not I would try to get this paper published. If you are interested in this, you can e-mail me @ Heather.Reka@yahoo.com and we can discuss this even more. Thank you for being strong Kezia.

  40. thank you Kezia for sharing your story, I went through the same ordeal 38 years ago and I am still suffer psychologically.

  41. Reading this, I know how you feel to remember the terrifying story of your own. You are so brave being able to talk about it… It is really helpful in our fight against this harmful practice.

  42. […] FGM has been used throughout history to limit female sexual activity.  Civilizations as old as the Egyptians, Australian Aboriginals and African tribes have used FGM to remove the clitoris. However, Kezia protests that values are the best control of sexual activity, “My community practices FGM type one which is partial or total removal of the clitoris, because they believe that the clitoris is unclean as it makes one sexually active. I strongly oppose this and believe that refraining from sexual relations before marriage is all about one’s attitude and values and it does not have anything to do with the removal of the clitoris”. (For Kezia Bianca’s full story, click here). […]

  43. […] La MGF ha sido utilizada a lo largo de la historia para limitar la actividad sexual femenina. Antiguas civilizaciones como los egipcios, los aborígenes australianos y las tribus africanas, han utilizado la MGF para eliminar el clítoris. Sin embargo, Kezia se lamenta de que los valores son el mejor control de la actividad sexual, “Mi comunidad practica la MGF de tipo uno, que es la extirpación parcial o total del clítoris, porque creen que el clítoris es impuro ya que conduce a la vida sexual activa. Me opongo firmemente a esto y creo que el abstenerse de tener relaciones sexuales antes del matrimonio tiene que ver con la propia actitud y con los propios valores, y que no tiene nada que ver con la ablación del clítoris”. (Para acceder a la historia completa de Kezia Bianca, por favor presione aquí). […]

  44. […] young Kenyan woman describes her experience; “Innocently like a sheep to be taken to a slaughter house, one woman […]

  45. inspiring story you have

  46. I truly love your story. You are such an inspiration. Please, don’t stop what you’re doing to have and give motivation to all these girls. There’s always hope and you must believe always. I wish you luck and mor success in the future. You encouraged me! Thank you.

  47. Good job Keziah. I am drafting a Ph.d thesis on FGM among the Kisii community in Kenya. I will be happy to liaise with you also given that my interest as a man is to ensure that both men and women understand why this outdated practice must come to an end. please contact me via ‘migiro2001@gmail.com.’ Thank you.

  48. hi i am in Kisii – kenya, writing to let you know that i know a woman at my village who cuts young girls (FGM). how can i get her arrested? contact me asap at dalmasmose@gmail.com

  49. I escape being a victim of FGM in my country to cut a long story short, I myself in this nonsense when my status changed I and my two daughters 1year and 2years were for ced to undergo the FGM but God helped me escape in the midst of it all. I’m in the United States to beg for protection against these wolves of women who carry on this act. And my heart felt cry is to go back there after my freedom, and with the protection from the United States to fight these devilish act and conine to educate my girls about this death of FGM.

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