USA/GHANA: One Woman's Crusade

Female genital mutilation still happens in much of the world and one woman has made it her mission to put an end to the brutal practice.

Florence Ali has gone from being a midwife in Ghana to an international activist and she was in Connecticut to bring awareness to the horrific tradition.

Draped in her country's flag and surrounded by native artists, Ali spoke of a tradition she is not proud of.

"I realized the harm that was being done to women," Ali said.

Ali became an outspoken critic of female genital mutilation after seeing its devastating effects. A young girl is held down by family members and her genitalia is cut off, all without any anesthesia.

"Any sharp instrument at all, they use it, some even use broken bottles," Ali explained.

If the girls survive, they often suffer life-long health problems, intercourse is painful and scar tissue can obstruct labor.

It's all done in an effort to suppress a women's sexuality.

"The first and foremost is to curb the sexual desires of a woman," Ali said.

And as barbaric as the tradition is, it is still widespread.

"A place like Somalia, 89 percent, 89 percent of the women," Ali said.

Ali says the practice does happen in the U.S. among some immigrants from West Africa and Muslim countries.

"It's contained within those communities, they send their children back to Africa to have it done," Lynne Yeannakis, a professor from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.

Yeannakis has joined Ali to help spread her message and their efforts are paying off. In Ghana, only about 5-percent of the population still practices female genital mutilation and parents can now be prosecuted.


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DATE: 14/06/2008

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