Rewriting the Script

Dedication: I dedicate this story to all the young girls out there who have no voice to speak up, to be bold and to tell their story.

Trigger warning: Please be aware that this story includes a graphic description of childhood FGM (Female Genital Mutilation).

This was one chilly afternoon in the month of November in the year 1996. I vividly recall this afternoon of Saturday my parents asked us (my twin brother and I) to prepare ourselves for an afternoon drive. This to me sounded unusual owing to the fact that the weather was not very favorable to leave the house. I curiously asked my mum where we were going and she just smiled and hurriedly asked me to quickly dress, and suggested we would get late. We got into the car and my dad drove off, my brother and I kept peeping out of the window just to get a clue of the place we were headed but it seemed impossible to even guess. However, we got to a small village with scattered houses similar to a rural setting with very few people inhabiting it. We were welcomed by an old lady who from my judgment was the age of my grandmother my mum held my hand and asked me to follow her to the old lady’s house. Meanwhile, my dad and brother left, I could hear my mum telling my dad that it would take less than 20mins, so they would come to pick us up.

The old lady then asked me to lie down on the floor where she had spread apiece of cloth. I tried to resist and looked at my mum panicking and she encouraged me to comply. I did so hesitantly not knowing what was awaiting, She then asked me to relax pull my dress up and open my legs apart, as I tried to resist and cry my mum held my hands and I saw the old lady pick something that looked like a penknife and proceeded she cut off the clitoris. te pain was soo excruciating and unbearable.she then numbed the place with some methylated spirit and stitched it. I tried to persevere and not to cry as my mum held me. Sooner than later my dad and brother arrived to pick us, I realized my brother had also been circumcised, he was in equal pain as me, but for him, it was “medicalization”.

I felt betrayed by my parents, having gone through this terrible experience, that would later have consequences on me. However i forgave them.
We got home and found that a separate house had been set aside for us to stay through the “healing process” this would take 3-4 weeks and traditionally each of us was assigned an elder sister and brother to educate us on matters of reproductive health. The isolation would include minimal interaction with neighbors and even close family friends. on the last day, a ceremony was organized for us to appreciate and symbolize our transition to teenage.
First forward, I fell into depression in 2009 and even attempted suicide but luckily I survived. I never knew that the experiences I had been going through earlier in life were taking a toll on me, even more worse I isolated myself from people and later discovered I was suffering from social anxiety disorder(SAD). I went through counseling combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.
I felt the need to begin a movement targeting young girls from age 11-25 years training them on the need to know their bodies and to identify the threats that they may encounter in the day to day life and how to overcome them. As the outgoing chair of the National Youth Anti-Fgm organization in Kenya spearheaded by The Girl Generation, my vision is to advocate for the girls’ rights through storytelling as a powerful tool for change.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. By Maya Angelou.

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Phylis Abiri

Phylis Abiri is a graduate in Sociology and Communication from the University of Nairobi. I am motivated by addressing issues of girls women and marginalized groups’ access to information for increased participation for sustainable development and peaceful coexistence. I believe in integrity, work ethics and accountability.