HARMFUL CULTURAL PRACTICE

Long-term mental effects of FGM not addressed enough

Girls who have undergone the process have episodes of depression, hopelessness, low self-esteem

In Summary

• FGM is performed on girls and women to supposedly reduce their sexual energy and be initiated into womanhood. 

• Domination and control of women’s body by men continues to propagate the cycle of violence and promote harmful cultural practices.  

Girls march at prayer function against FGM.
RETROGRESSIVE: Girls march at prayer function against FGM.
Image: ANGWENYI GICHANA:

Adolescent girls and young women find it difficult to seek help when they experience traumatic situations.

This makes them suffer in silence as a result of fear, shame, stigma and victimisation associated with their experiences. Culture has made individuals internalise narratives like; when you go through a horrifying experience you brush it off and move on. I have been providing psychosocial support to young women and girls who have gone through Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage.

First, their experiences are sad, frustrating and overwhelming. In Kenya, FGM is performed on girls and women to supposedly reduce their sexual energy and be initiated into womanhood.

It is sad to note that the moment a girl has gone through FGM, they are considered ready for marriage. This, in turn, denies them the right to education. The underlying issue not being addressed is domination and control of women’s body by men which continues to propagate the cycle of violence, promote harmful cultural practices and violates the rights of children and women.

It’s time to do away with intergenerational practices that continue to cause lifelong harm (physical and psychological). A major gap in interventions for addressing FGM and child marriage are strong psychosocial components to effectively support survivors. 

Furthermore, we are not having conversations about the adverse long-term psychological impacts of FGM and child marriage.

Girls who have undergone the process have episodes of depression with days filled with hopelessness, low self-esteem, worry, tears and anxiety of whether they will ever enjoy sex, or have a normal delivery process.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is suffered by girls and women who have experienced FGM with episodes of nightmares, flashbacks, anger outbursts and avoidance of objects that trigger the traumatic event.

We are destroying the lives of girls and young women and this needs to stop. Young women have a right to enjoy a fulfilling life and pursue education. No man has a right to control a woman’s body in the name of culture and religion.

As Kenya commits to ending FGM by 2022, we need to focus on providing psychosocial support to FGM survivors and meaningfully engage youths in FGM interventions to end this harmful practice.

Youth Changers Kenya