People Of Note: 'Lost Maiden' Puts The Spotlight On A Dangerous Tradition

Chisom Ozigboh-lee is a special person who can be counted among the brave individuals who are willing to stand up and say enough to certain outdated mores and traditions.  Although Ozigboh-lee has met some opposition concerning her position she understands its time to stand against an age old tradition that is literally causing the death of many African women.  This ancient ritual apparently spread from the Nile and its tributaries into adjacent regions such as Palestine. It spread through migration routes into Northwest Africa, and across the Sahara and Sahel regions into the West African savanna. The practice has been conducted along the Red Sea Coast into the Horn of Africa and parts of East Africa, Central Africa and regions within Southern Africa. This is a practice that was known at one time to certain indigenous Andean and Australian ethnic, religious, and cultural groups and among Bedouin groups in Israel and surrounding areas. The practice was also known in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia as well.  Many cultures viewed it as a rite of passage into adulthood.  Thus, it should be understood, female circumcision has been and continues to be a well entrenched cultural lifestyle that has existed for centuries. As an African woman and registered nurse, Chisom has seen the death, pain, physical damage and psychological depression resulting from female circumcision.  Ozigboh-lee, who wrote, produced and stars in the movie “Lost Maiden,” hopes to educate people how certain traditions harm those who are victims of cultural practices.  In an effort to bring to light how women are literally scarred and maimed by the practice of female circumcision, Chisom spent a year researching this ancient rite of passage and now bravely speaks out against it.  A Nollywood actress as well as medical person, Ozigboh-lee was aided by fellow nurses in researching the devastating effects genital mutilation has on women who undergo these methods without proper medical care. The practice has been observed to cause painful menstruation, devastating scarring, dangerous urinary tract infections, unrestricted bleeding, and gangrene (which in some cases can result in death).  

      “No one really knows the origin of this tradition.  It’s such an old cultural custom that people merely practice it without knowing how the custom began.  There are even some women who honor it as tradition, submitting their daughters to the practice because while its widely supported by men, its taught to both genders that its taboo for women to feel sexual pleasure,” stated the concerned filmmaker who explained how a woman’s clitoris is removed, leaving a literal hole which is sewn up until the woman marries.  Through her film, Chisom hopes to spotlight the custom and prove how damaging it is to women.  Co-starring with her in “Lost Maiden” are Nollywood stars Omotola Ojolade and Kalu Ikeagwu.  The film is expected to have a universal impact and could possibly become an important tool in ending a dangerous tradition that is no longer viable in today’s world.

      It is important to mention that while the Western mind condemns female circumcision and views it as an abomination, it must be noted that female circumcision is a social practice that has been part of the African fabric as far back as 5000 B.C.  Therefore, while Western society condemns the practice as genital mutilation, it is not viewed as such within the cultures that practice it.  Westerners should consider the rich, complex, and diversified nature of African civilization in its patriarchal and matrifocal dimensions, thus not lose sight of Africa’s strengths as well as its weaknesses. African polytheists (including the Ancient Egyptians) as well as African Muslims, Christians and Jews, have often practiced female and male circumcision in their rites of passage, honoring the transition from puberty to adulthood.  Some cultures see circumcision of both males and females not only as a rite of passage but also as a marital requirement or badge of courage, with even some parents believing they are protecting their daughters from potential rapists.  Therefore, it must be emphasized that these practices are not done as an act of cruelty in the minds of those performing these rituals. 

     “As more and more information is made available, several African countries have begun to discourage female genital surgery by providing information demonstrating the disadvantages of circumcising women, such as high infant mortality, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.  Oftentimes, women do not receive the same quality of healthcare as men and literally succumb as a result of the practice,” remarked Chisom.  “However, as people are educated about the harmful effects of allowing midwives, etc., to perform improper surgery on the delicate region of the vagina, emphasizing how unsafe and unsanitary these methods are, people have begun to slowly eradicate the practice,” said Chisom who hopes to speed the process along with the release of her film. 

      Chisom has also become an outspoken voice and advocate for HIV/AIDS education. Recently, she participated in the African American Women in Cinema International Film Festival in partnership with Save Africa Concerts Foundation (SACAIDS) at the United Nation where  Patience Ozokwo’s (a.k.a. Mama G) premiered her movie, ”Deeper Than Sex.” While Chisom is determined to make 2009 the year to eradicate female circumcision, both Nollywood stars have lent their voices to support SACAIDS in its fight against HIV/AIDS, poverty, and other health related issues. Through SACAIDS and her recent movie,” Chisom informs individuals performing these circumcisions that use of primitive tools such as unsanitary knives, razor blades and sharp rocks only serve to spread the HIV/AIDS virus. Hollywood actress Phyllis Yvonne Stickney is also an outspoken spokesperson for the SACAIDS organization headed by Hardy Jimbes.

      Chisom’s film “Lost Maiden,” may prove to be one of the most necessary, vital and important films of 2009.  The film is slated to premiere in New York City and at the United Nations in February 2009, at a date to be announced.

For additional information about Chisom Ozigboh-lee and her film “Lost Maiden,” contact Tuff Gig Entertainment via


AUTHOR: Deardra Shuler

URL: Click here

DATE: 07/01/2009

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