Fighting FGM, community by community

Former FGM practitioner joins the fight against Female Genital Mutilation


Former FGM practitioner joins the fight against Female Genital Mutilation

Sawandim Sawo, a 68 years old woman, who practiced Female Genital Mutilation for 18 years has decided to give it up. She is willing to join Plan’s FGM project to fight against this harmful practice through awareness raising in the community of Sawocunda, in the region of Gabu.

In Guinea-Bissau, about 49.8% of girls continue to be victims of genital mutilation, large proportions of whom need medical treatments due to the harmful effects of the practice. FGM prevalence varies between different regions of Guinea-Bissau, depending on the distribution of different ethnic groups that associate the practice with their ethnic identity, and traditional or religious beliefs.

Female Genital Mutilation involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, for non-medical reasons and based on predominantly socio-cultural practices.

Plan supported by communities’ leaders in fighting against FGM

In Sawocunda village in the region of Gabu, Nhambi Sawo, 70-year-old community leader and FGM practitioner Sawandim Sawo has decided to stop the practice and is keen to join Plan in raising awareness in her community and surrounding areas.

“I started the practice about 18 years ago at a time when many of the young girls you see in the village were not even born. I can’t even remember the number of excisions I carried out during this period”, says Sawandim.

“In our tradition, all FGM practitioners have a special status in the community and they are seen as professors or doctors of the community. I was very proud to be an FGM practitioner and didn’t know of the serious health problems it caused to girls and women”, she adds.

Sawandim Sawo says Plan’s project helped her to understand the consequences of the practice and resulted in her decision to abandon it.

“I stopped practicing FGM almost a year ago and I will never do it again. I hope everybody understands the dangers it poses to our health”, she says. Sawandim is now actively leading the drive to eradicate FGM and has played a key role in supporting Plan in involving other FGM practitioners in raising awareness to stop FGM across the country.

“I am committed to raising awareness in my community and in other communities to ensure everybody understands the danger.”

Plan has also managed to secure the support of local community chief.

“I am the head of the community! Nothing here is organised without my permission. I can ensure you that my community is willing to work with Plan to ensure we will no longer practice genital mutilation here”, says Nhambi Sawo.

Sawocunda is generally seen as one of the most radical and traditional community in the region of Gabu, and it may be hard to believe that community leaders have decided to abandon the FGM practice.

Djenabu Sano, Plan FGM community worker says:

“A t the beginning it was not easy to convey the message. It took me some time to make the community understand the objectives of the project and the danger of FGM. I think the best technique we used was to involve community leaders and practitioners.”

"I almost fainted in the process. It was really painful"

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