This story was told to a public audience. Names have been changed for privacy.
Obamuko is a 22 year old female who was mutilated at age 7 in her home country of Nigeria. She and her younger sister were told that the next day would be a “happy day” and that she would get candy and would wear her nicest dress.
The following morning, she, her sister and other girls were led by her mother and aunt to a secluded area just outside her village where there were more adult women. Some of the adults were singing native songs.
The songs were then interrupted by a child’s screams. The cries pierced the morning air and were the only sound anyone could hear. It immediately struck fear in the hearts of Obamuko and her sister. They asked their mother what was happening and were told to not worry, “this is a beautiful day”.
Obamuko’s sister, age 5, was taken first by her aunt to an area that Obamuko could not see. But within minutes, she heard her sister’s screams. Her mother tightened her grip on Obamuko who began to cry and pull away.
The younger sister was led out by an adult, still painfully sobbing and holding her crotch. Blood streamed down her leg.
Obamuko fought with all her might to resist as her mother walked her toward the five adult women that had just assaulted her sister. Each of the four women grasped each of Obamuko’s extremities—arms and legs– and spread her legs while another sat across her chest and put a hand over her mouth. From the corner of her tear-filled eye, Obamuko saw an older woman kneel next to her and then felt an excruciating pain shoot from her crotch. She tried to scream, but the hand over her mouth pressed harder. She felt the warm sensation of blood between her legs and the pain intensified.
As her arms and legs released and the hand removed from her mouth, she screamed with pain. She grabbed the area of pain between her legs and pressed. It only worsened the pain and her hand was wet with blood. The pain was so severe that she had difficulty drawing a breath. Instead of crying, she could only scream.
Obamuko looked for her mother in hopes she would provide some relief, but her mother had joined the other adults, now singing again.
Through the tears and with blood running down her leg, she started the walk back to her house. As she grew closer to the house, she could hear her sister’s painful cries. She didn’t remember arriving at the house.
She and her sister spent the next two painful days lying on mats on the floor of the house. The bleeding from Obamuko was so profuse that the blood clot stuck her leg to the mat. Flies and other insects buzzed around the two children who now had a dirty rags placed over the vaginal area. Obamuko’s pain and fever was extreme and she passed in and out of consciousness.
As she and her sister slowly recovered, Obamuko learned of a friend of the same age that had died after being cut on that day.
Obamuko’s mother continued to smile and proudly say, “ Now my girls will make good wives”.
Now a young adult, Obamuko remembers that day as the worst pain any human –or animal– should have to endure.
She now works as an activist in the fight to eradicate FGM.
–This story was told by the victim at an international meeting on Female Genital Mutilation. It is not the story of any doctor’s patient.
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