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AUSTRALIA: 'You Suppress The Pain'

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'I longed for it. It becomes part of the ritual. It's a big show-and-tell about how brave you are, how you make your mother proud by going through it without crying and running away.' - Maylun Ahmed
Picture: Anna Joske

SOMALI refugee Maylun Ahmed has a goal - to bring awareness and education about female genital mutilation to all Australians.

Mrs Ahmed, a settlement team leader at the Northern Migrant Resource Centre, is campaigning for education and counselling on the issue for newly arrived refugees and females subjected to the practice in their homelands.

Female genital mutilation involves partial or total removal of the external genitalia and injury to the female organs. Mrs Ahmed said the idea behind the process was to control women's sexuality so they don't sleep with men before marriage and bring shame to the family.

She said the practice had no relevance to society and how we lived today.

Her fight stems from her own experience at the age of seven and said it was a customary process in Somalia for girls aged five to nine.

''Rows and rows of girls go through it, like a mass production, in the same morning.

''I longed for it. It becomes part of the ritual. It's a big show-and-tell about how brave you are, how you make your mother proud by going through it without crying and running away.''

After the process, the women in the community hold a feast.

''Women talk about how brave you were ... you just want to be a part of that.

''And the sad thing is they use the one knife, it's not sterilised ... if you don't catch anything [like infectious diseases] you're really lucky.''

She said the procedure was almost never performed by a doctor and that in ''99 per cent of the cases it's just an older woman who knows how to do it''.

Female genital mutilation has immediate effects (including death if an artery is cut) and long-term effects like hemorrhoids, infectious diseases and problems with menstruation and childbirth.

''When you have a child, you suffer more than any other woman.''

The mother of six said it was something she had never spoken about with her two daughters, aged 11 and 14.

''I put away the pain. It hits you now and then, but it's something that you suppress.''

SOURCE: Moonee Valley

AUTHOR: Elizabeth Cannatelli

URL: Click here

DATE: 25/07/2007

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