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Let's Make This World Fit for Women and Children

Mar 13, 2009, 4:45 AM | Article By: Isatou Dumbuya

International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. This day is celebrated throughout the world every year on the eight of March. With the objective, to highlight the achievements and challenges in the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, at the national and global levels. This day women are recognized for their achievements regardless of divisions and nationals. Some determined women across the globe are bent on making a change in the world and some of them are to abolish harmful traditional practices in our societies. One of these practices is female genital mutilation. This practice is usually practiced in Africa and it is a common occurrence especially in our country.


"Wake up, wake up Jankey."

Jankey heard the familiar voice, but was reluctant to get up. She squeezed her eyes shut and never wished for daylight to come till her insatiable lust for sleep has already been quenched. She hadn't slept, but for a few hours. Yesterday night she and her age mates had been playing under the full moon with elders gathered around a fire camp to smoke and to talk about the good old days. Too wise for her own age, Jankey sensed a promise of mischievousness in the air and knew that a dark cloud was lurking around. She hadn't sensed but knew and saw from the goings and comings of the women in her home that evening. Women from far and near brought their daughters to her grandmum. But for what purpose? She did not know. She made a handful of friends with the girls who like herself didn't reach puberty. She hugged her blanket and turned a deaf ear to her caller. When the caller's call grew more irritable, she forced herself from the warm embrace of the bed and placed her feet on the cold ground.

"Mum you wouldn't let me have a peaceful sleep,' she said sleepily heading for the door with a staggering gait. She took the kettle at the door and washed her face and mouth. Minutes later, after performing ablution and offering her morning prayers, she was ready to face the day.

Her mother who was of a lighter skin gave her some of the porridge she had already cooked behind a sad face she so craftily made sure Jankey wouldn't notice. She hid her sad face behind a smile, which didn't reach her eyes.

Today will mark her daughter's initiation in the path of womanhood. A ceremony all girls of her tribe must undergo before crossing the threshold of womanhood.

When she was younger and not yet ripe for marriage they were made to believe that that was a life of a woman. They were made to shoulder responsibilities at an early age. And today...today her daughter will have to go through the sacred practice to keep the practice alive. A sob escaped her throat and too late for her, Jankey knew that something was amiss with her mother.

"What's wrong with you mother, you don't seem to be your usual self today?"

Her mother managed to convince her that nothing was amiss.

"Go to your grandmother, she has sent for you.'

Jankey wondered, what could her grandmother's calling for her had to do with her mother's sad face? Surely it wasn't her grandmother because she was one cute frail old lady anyone would love, and she would never trade her for anything, she thought.

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, just like the little girl she was and sauntered towards the hut of her grandmother. When she neared her hut, she heard muffled voices from inside. A few steps ahead and she was inside her hut. She was dismayed when she saw too much older women with strange faces in her grandmother's hut. That of her age mates she could handle, but definitely not strange old women, who kept bickering away non-stop.

She murmured her greetings and went to her grandmother who was in the adjourning room offering ritual bathes to other girls who came in turns. She was ordered to join the line immediately. The water was bitingly cold instead of welcoming and she bit her bottom lip to suppress a cry.

They were all attired in their best traditional wears and ordered to stay in a line by an unfriendly elderly woman who seemed to have woken up from the wrong side of the bed that morning. Hens were sacrificed for the young girls and libations were poured to ward off the evil eye and to appease the gods. There was a long procession of going to the forest where it was believed that an old woman lived alone by herself. Walking in a straight line, they seemed to be on a pilgrimage. When they reached a hut in the middle of the forest where Jankey suspected to be the home of the lonely old woman, she saw the line thinning out at a slow pace. She knew she wouldn't like what they were going through and so anticipated her turn with a dreadful taste in her mouth.



In the blink of an eye she heard painful cries from behind the old woman's hut and nausea overtook her. The line thinned out and soon it was her turn to go. Moments before she left she saw a friend in a blood-soaked dress and she became terrified. Terrified to her very core. Before she knew what was going on, she was seized and thrown to the ground by an older woman. She passed out and therefore, couldn't recollect a single event in her memory. Twenty years later, looking back on that fateful day she knew that the cries of the innocent girls and the blood-soaked dress would haunt her forever. She vowed never to encourage anyone's daughter or her daughter to undergo such a barbaric practice.  She promised herself that she would fight to the very end even if she breathed her last to stop such a harmful traditional practice.