Avin.

Sixteen days. Sixteen stories about Her from my diary.

Day 7: Avin

More than ten years ago, in 2008, I met Avin and her peers in a high school in Erbil. I walked into the school with a flip-chart stand, flip-chart papers and some markers. We had selected a few school after initial research indicated that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) occurrence in that particular area of Erbil was prominent.

Art work by Raz Xaidan. You can find Raz here and here.

Avin was 13 or 14 at the time. We spoke of FGM in a group discussion after a few ice breakers. As expected, immediately the majority of the girls in the room said they had undergone the process. Avin raised her hand and asked “how do I know if I have undergone FGM?” this opened an entire discussion among the girls and their peers, and a little bit of giggling.

The next day our workshop continued, before the session began I was setting up the flip-chart stand. Avin came into the room before her peers. She came up to me, without a hello and without any introduction to say: I asked my mum, she said yes.

I knew she had planned this in her mind ahead of time. What was difficult for me, was she expected me to make her feel better, to tell her it is okay, to tell her it is nothing, to tell her so what! She was in shock to know that she had been ‘circumcised’ at a young age.

she asked if she can still become pregnant in future because she had undergone FGM

I thought to myself that moment of what to reply. Avin was a girl who was affected for the rest of her life on a decision that wasn’t even her own. While the other girls had remembered the traumatising day where an older woman collected the neighbourhood’s girls in one house to undergo the process, Avin did not remember ‘that day’.

During the next day’s workshop, Avin was engaged and curious during the discussions. She had so many questions and queries. At one point she asked if she can still become pregnant in future because she had undergone FGM. A few of her friends laughed.

The girls had so many questions about their own bodies, about the future, about reproduction and their potential love life. They even asked if it is okay to cook for someone if they were not ‘circumcised’.

Everyday, for the three days, I would pack and leave thinking how unjust it was for your own mother to decide to cut a part of you for so many different reasons related culture often it was an attempt to control your future sexual behaviour. A mother could never hurt her own daughter, for so many homes FGM was thought as a way of protecting their daughters…

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