Monday, December 8, 2008

Dying To Be Accepted

Pamela Kathambi was fifteen years old when she died. Her death was a loss to her village because she was a very hardworking young lady who would have completed her education and gone on to become somebody...and helped somebody. As hard as she worked and as much as she was appreciated, at the end of the day, she had to accept herself. In the stillness of her soul, she had to like herself. She did not. The age-old internalized traditions had penetrated her spirit, even beyond the current wisdom of her own mother.

As she developed into a woman, as her breasts peeked, as her hips filled out, as she experienced her first menstrual cycle, only one act of honor would guarantee her an upstanding place in the community. That act of initiation was circumcision.

When her mother refused to let her undergo the ritual, she grew depressed. She suffered ridicule from friends and school-mates. They called her mukenye (the derogatory name given to uncircumcised ladies). She feared that she would be ostracized in the community. She would fetch a low bride-price; and if she did find a husband, she’d be labeled a rude wife.

Pamela Kathambi bled to death in June 2006. She had tried to perform female genital mutilation on herself in her village of Irindi in Kenya. Kenyans and the world were shocked. After all, there was a law banning female genital mutilation in effect since December, 2001. Essentially, Pamela was teased to death.

As recently as three days ago, three hundred girls in south-western Kenya fled from their homes and sought refuge in churches. They were running away from forced female genital mutilation. The girls, some as young as nine, are at two rescue centers in rural Nyanza province, police told the BBC. Source: bbc.co.uk.

A girl undergoing circumcision bbc.co.uk.

Laws are not enough! Parents, the community is not screaming loud enough! What will it take to eradicate this brutal practice?! It is estimated that two million women and children a year are subjected to this practice. What happened to Maendeleo Ya Wanawake's vow to eradicate FGM?!

9 comments:

  1. That is horrible, I am so sorry that she lost her life. Although, this isn't a tradition in the US, this societies standards of beauty are just as brutal. Girls and boys are teased because they don't fit a certain ideal. And many times, like you pointed out, they are teased to death. They sometimes end up committing suicide, killing others in a fit of rage (school shootings) or being killed by those who refuse to accept them.

    Its sad and just horrific.

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  2. Maybe because I am not African and thereby I just see things from a different perspective in giving my comment it is with no disrespect to anyone. Yes, I agree that even in this society peer pressure can be and is brutal. But just the thought of making my daughter undergo something like that is just not imaginable. If the parents/adults in those cultures that still believe in and enforce females to go through this do not move out of the past and understand that this is really just not necessary, our girls will continue to bear such a horable burden.......

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  3. My God, that is stunningly sad--and outrageous. I understand rituals and their place, but when those rituals HURT little girls and cause irreparable damage, how could those practices be good for any society? I pray for those girls who ran, and for those whose legs don't have the strength... Thanks for reminding us, Mama Shujaa, that this is still going on... is there any way that we can help?

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  4. An excellent social commentary on FGM is Sembene Ousman's last film Moolade. It is set in Burkina Faso in a small village where the women rebel against the practice and demand the women with knives throw away their instruments of pain and violation. A truly uplifting powerful film of African women


    You should be able to get it on DVD (you can in London anyway).

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  5. I read about this horrifying tradition years ago and was just stunned that things like this still happen to young women in our world. There are no words to describe how devastating acts like this are.

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  6. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure and tradition. Anyone in my part of the world would think that she considered herself lucky to have escaped...
    As for the practise - we know that it happens in immigrant communities here, however unlawful. The girls are also sent back home to have it done if it can't be done here. I'm sure that's the case in other countries as well.
    The thing is that parents must genuinely believe that this is in the best interest of their daughters. The answer must be education, education, education - of parents, brothers, and of the girls themselves.
    Thanks for your lovely comment over at my place, Hana.

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  7. Thank you for bringing this to light. I did not realize these practices were still so prevelent. I can't imagine holding my child down for such a hiddeous and gruesome act. What can be done to help? Anything?

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  8. OMG! I can't even image going through such pain! It's very very sad!

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  9. Love Yourself.
    It is so easy to say.
    So hard to do.
    Approve of Yourself.
    The self-help gurus say.
    We try to do it.
    And along comes a lover, a friend, a stranger or even a family member tossing careless comments or hurtful words.
    Those words tear down and destroy the little bit of love we managed to grow.
    Makes us weak
    and we are back where we started.

    Tonight, instead of beating myself up for not finishing a task or complaining to my husband about hogging the blanket, I'll pray for each and every woman (including myself)/little girl to love herself dearly.

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