Featured Storyteller

KENYA: The Day I Was Cut

Sarah Sofia
Posted April 4, 2018 from Kenya
Photo © Reuters/Siegfried Modola

As a young girl, Sarah Sofia looked forward to the day she would be circumcised. When she entered high school, she learned the truth about the painful and unnecessary practice.

“Little did we know of the side effects of the whole procedure and its dangers to our health.

Editor's Note: This story includes a personal account of female genital mutilation. Some readers may find the details disturbing.

We waited anxiously for the long December holiday. It was the month when primary and high school students were off school and most cultural and community events took place. As young girls, we knew of the celebration to come and wanted to be a part of it. We wanted it to be our turn. We wanted to be cut.

Growing up, girls grouped themselves according to this particular occasion: those who had been cut, and those who had not.

In most communities in the area I grew up in in Kenya, female genital mutilation is not only seen as a rite of passage, but as a source of pride and identity. The practice ensures that a girl is socially accepted by community members.

As we prepared for the “big” day, we were so happy, but also anxious and afraid.

We wanted to experience the pride associated with the cutting/mutilation, and we wanted to be accepted. We wanted to be married to one of the men in our communities one day, and we wanted the kind of life where no one would talk or laugh at us behind our backs for being women who are still “children”. We wanted that thing that grows so long and hangs down in between our legs (as we were made to believe by older girls) to be cut.

So we talked with our mothers and made them plan which holiday we would attend and which group of girls we would be circumcised with. Most believe that parents force young girls to be mutilated, but the truth is much of the time girls force their parents to make such decisions because, from a young age, they are made to believe that circumcision is a must, that it is normal and good. We were made to believe that without it you would not get married or be a part of your community.

On the eventful day, we were cleaned. Our houses were cleaned, and a number of happy women neighbors filled our homes. The men were happy that we were going to transition to womanhood. Our innocent brothers were happy that there would be the slaughtering of a goat or two with plenty of meat. They stared at you with those begging eyes that said, “Please, don’t forget to share with me the meat, goodies, sweets, and delicious meal.”

The procedure is done without anesthesia. You are just cut. A piece of your body is just mutilated, and there is nothing done to prevent the bleeding. How painful! You are not allowed to scream, as screaming shows cowardice, and any girl who screams will be known by the whole village and all the young boys as a coward. She will be a shame to her mother. So, you are not allowed to see the razor blade or watch as the cutting is done.

We were young girls, made to squat on a stool facing the circumciser. Someone from behind covered our eyes and spread our legs wide apart. The process is different depending on the community, ranging from partial to total removal of the clitoris, piercing, or total mutilation of the female genitalia. All have serious effects on the body of a woman. Infections are common, as are complications during childbirth and impacts on a woman’s sexuality.

For a whole week, we were celebrated heroes. Every girls’ legs were tied together from hip to ankle. Walking and urinating was a problem. Our mothers kept applying traditional herbs to reduce the pain and enhance healing. We were happy about constantly receiving gifts. Little did we know of the side effects of the whole procedure and its dangers to our health.

As we grew old and progressed in school and gained knowledge, we came to learn that female genital mutilation has no benefit to girls or society. There is no medical reason for it, and its only aim is to endanger a woman’s health. After we joined high school and interacted with students from different communities, we discovered that the small organ in our genitalia does not grow long and protrude from our panties, as we were told.

We came to learn that uncircumcised girls are normal, doing well in their lives, getting married, and nothing seems to be wrong with them.

In school, when girls discuss FGM in class, the circumcised ones are filled with anxiety, and sometimes depressed. We are fearful of what the future might hold after marriage and when delivering. We feel out of place, and it’s hard to communicate to others, even when we have issues like infection in our genitalia. Menstruation days are amongst the toughest. The pain is sometimes unimaginable and unbearable.

Despite it all, we have survived. We pray and hope that one day—just some day—this whole practice will come to an end. We hope that one day, every girl will be happy and have all her body’s organs and nerves intact.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 71

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  • Olutosin
    Apr 04
    Apr 04

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Mine is not different, just that un those days, shells of a big Snail was the blade. Now we had a law that prohibits FGM in Nigeria, but some people still practice it.

    I did a documentary in January 2016 and travelled to a village where only pregnant women are mutilated. It's horrible. Also I witnessed in Ibadan where an old man used a traditional knife to cut all the girls present. It was on a slaughter table outside his compound.

    May every female be safe from harmful cultural practices. Amen

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 26
    Apr 26

    Thanks dear,
    the use of an old man even makes it more humiliating....We will end this once we bring our voices of power together and fight as hard as we can!

  • Jill Dulitsky
    Apr 04
    Apr 04

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. The history is so interesting and so different from what I've read. I appreciate you educating us about this practice and fighting to end it.

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Jill
    thanks for your encouragement. It is through informing people of the whole practice that I intend to end it all with the support of other voices of power.
    Cheers,
    Sofia

  • JulieG
    Apr 04
    Apr 04

    Thank you so much for the bravery you've shown telling your story. It's informative for us to understand the perspective of young girls and how they are made to feel in their community. I, like Olutosin, pray every female may one day be safe from this painful, harmful and unnecessary practice. I also hope girls may be saved from these harmful feelings of shame.

    Warmly,

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Julieg,
    thank you for your encouragement and for praying for us. It is through informing others that i believe this act will come to an end some day. Speaking out will also help us in overcoming that feeling of shame, fear and create a strong voice for campaigning against the practice.

  • Immaculate Amoit
    Apr 04
    Apr 04

    Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing, I have interacted with friends who have undergone the cut, reading your story and breaks my heart. All hope is not lost, iy is in speaking up that change occurs, our younger sisters and daughters will not go through the same.

    When women like you are speaking up and want the best for them, your resilience and that of others will break the cycle of the cut.

    Cheers

    Immah

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Immaculate,
    Thanks so much for your great words of encouragement. I believe our resilience is detrimental in ending the cycle.
    Regards

  • Nakinti
    Apr 05
    Apr 05

    Dear Sarah Sofia,

    This story is so hard to read -- I found myself grabbing the chair so hard as if I was the one being cut. Dear, you are a strong woman, one who has been able to tell the story the way it is. I admire your courage and determination to see this practice come to an end. I can imagine the brainwashing that took place to make you all believe that the clit will grow to hang in between your legs. How sad! One thing makes me happy -- the fact that many governments and communities are denouncing the practice. I am looking forward to you standing against this practice by sharing your experience. Stand for change, be a changemaker!!! Say it loud. Break the silence. Fight it.

    Thank you, dear sister, for sharing your story. I am proud of you.

    One love
    Nakinti

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear sister,
    Thank you so much for your great words of encouragement and support. The speaking out about the experience has just started and there is no turning back. Its just moving forward.
    Love,
    Sarah

  • jlanghus
    Apr 05
    Apr 05

    Hi Sarah. Thanks again for sharing your vulnerable tale and for being so strong. Congrats on winning the story award, too!!!

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Hi Jlanghus,
    Thanks once more for your great words of encouragement.
    Cheers..

  • jlanghus
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    You're welcome:) Hope you have a great day!

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 01
    May 01

    Yeah, I had a great one.
    Hope you are doing well too!

  • jlanghus
    May 02
    May 02

    Awesome. Yes, thanks:)

  • Sister Zeph
    Apr 05
    Apr 05

    Dear Sarah thank you to share this story of you , I have to share it to my students in school so that they can know how their fellow sisters are facing difficulties of life in the world and that we have to work together as sisters to up lift each other, thank God you are fine, bless you and your stories is another proof that education can bring a true change because with education we know the realities

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Sister,
    Thanks a lot for your wonderful encouraging words and for sharing our story with your girls. I am really humbled. Thanks and much blessings
    Best,
    Sarah

  • Pedmia Shatu Tita
    Apr 06
    Apr 06

    wow quite interesting i enjoyed the story and jut to remark that for those who still practice this hit is time to move away from that practice. it is unhealthy i wasn't circumcised and my clitoris has never grown out of my pant.

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thanks dear pedmia,
    Imagine being told the clitoris would grow long...hahaha
    Best,

  • Aysh Khan
    Apr 06
    Apr 06

    I am trying to read this story since yesterday but can not.. Its so hard to read it complete.. After reading 50 %, I felt my heart will start bleeding and my blood pressure started to low as imagination was in my mind of this process. I just Can't gather that Courage to read it completely.. :(

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thanks dear Aysh,
    I completely understand you. I am still wondering how i got the courage to write about that bit by bit. Its something that I wanted to write for long. But now I can just write, write and write.

  • Tamarack Verrall
    Apr 07
    Apr 07

    Dear Sarah,

    By telling your story, from your own life, the ways that girls with natural eagerness to embrace adulthood are being manipulated into wanting this is outlined so well for understanding and working for change. It is by your courage to speak out from such personal perspective, that we can stand together to say that every form of painful act against women and girls needs to end, and that we are supporting each other, sharing information, linking arms and joining hearts within WorldPulse, to end cutting everywhere.

    With love in sisterhood,
    Tam

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Tam,
    Thank you so much for your encouraging and supportive words. Its by speaking out about the real experience that we get to learn more on how to make great strategies. without a true story the battle may be fought from a very different angle.
    Love,
    Sarah

  • Amani K
    Apr 08
    Apr 08

    Sarah, THANK YOU for the courage to share your story. Someday, these kinds of things meant to endanger women's lives will end. That is: 'when we women wake up, regain our courage to speak our truth, like you have done, so that young girls know the truth. Only the truth can set us free!' Karambu

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Amani,
    Thanks so much too. I believe our courage will end this act some day.
    Best Regards

  • Ndimofor Aretas
    Apr 08
    Apr 08

    Dear Sarah,
    Thanks for your detailed recount of the FGM procedure. I often only heard about it and had no idea of the procedure.

    I'm not sure I can really imagine how painful the procedure and holding in the pain makes it even worse.

    You are really strong to have endured that. I will share your story with my community to contribute to stopping such a dangerous practice!

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Aretas,
    Thank you so much for your encouragement and the promise to share my story. It is through our collective fights and support that we can end this dangerous act some day.
    Best,
    Sarah

  • Evelyn Fonkem
    Apr 09
    Apr 09

    Thank you for sharing. Femailed genital mutilation is a canker worm that prevents women and girls to reach their full potentials.It also has many negative health effects on the survivors. Zero Tolerance to FGM

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Evelyn,
    Thanks a lot. Zero Tolerance is our motto!

  • Lily Habesha
    Apr 10
    Apr 10

    Dear Sister,
    OH! I read your post with fear, my face...and my spirit troubled. I've been to your place, just the in capital city and some villages, never heard about FGM.
    In Ethiopia, they do circumcision until few years back both for boy and girl child. Boy must be 7 days old. i think it's also same for girls.
    i don't know what kind of heart those people have, who cut an infant's body with a razor blade.

    About the shaming, it's better when you don't know anything. But in your place, you are young girls, and they do it when you are teenager, right? i found it too embarrassing.
    I don't support any of the acts at any age.

    They have to stop it.
    Even if our government trying to stop this actions, there are people who wants to do it illegally.

    thank you for sharing.

    Lily

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear sister,
    Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. Its great to hear that in Ethiopia they no longer practise. Its more shameful for adolescent girls than infants and government regulations is not doing much to restrain that. We hope it will soon be eradicated.
    much love,
    Sarah

  • Lily Habesha
    May 09
    May 09

    Yes Sarah,
    The gov has stopped it even for infant girls nowadays, only for little biys.
    Hope things will change soon.

    Lily

  • Anjana Vaidya
    Apr 11
    Apr 11

    Dear Sarah,
    So sorry to hear about this painful insane practice you have undergone. Still, I am having goosebumps and feeling anger. There are lots of harmful practices, that makes girl and women more vulnerable to their health. Thank you for sharing and speaking up on this. We have to make our voice louder to condemn these kinds of things from ourselves and have to work at our level best.
    Best regards,
    Anjana

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Anjana,
    Thanks so much for your supportive words of encouragement. I agree with you that a united voice from women all over can help in ending this barbaric act.
    Much love
    Sarah

  • Meseret Haileyesus
    Apr 13
    Apr 13

    Thanks for sharing! its sad to hear that according to World Health Organization estimates that 140-million women and girls around the world have experienced female genital mutilation...

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thanks too dear,
    and that is true because almost every country in Africa has people who practise that.

  • OakTrillium
    Apr 13
    Apr 13

    Thank you for your courage and truth telling, I am honoured to bear witness.

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thank you too for your encouraging comment

  • Suh Diviner
    Apr 15
    Apr 15

    Wow so touching.
    I hope and pray that such acts be aborted in our society and community . Our nation needs healthy and pysycologically fit women to stand for woman emancipation.
    I love your story

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thank you Suh,
    It is our hope and prayer too that such acts will come to an end as we try our best to campaign against it

  • Veronica Ngum Ndi
    Apr 15
    Apr 15

    Thanks so much Sarah. Your story is so educative. FGM is not practice in my community. Is so sad to see how young women are exposed to so much danger.
    You are great.
    Congratulations
    Love
    Veronica

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thank you dear Veronica,
    Its great to know that FGM is not practised in your community. It is of no importance but much of a danger to a woman.
    Much love
    Sarah

  • Gladys Muthara
    Apr 18
    Apr 18

    Wow Sarah! Thank you so much for being so brave to tell your story, that others may hear and learn about the horrors of FGM from one who has experienced it. From deep down in my heart, I really appreciate you, because I have gained deep insights I would never have gained but for reading your story. May your strong voice stand for millions of other girls who have to endure FGM horrors across the world. With Love, Hope & Light.

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Dear Gladys,
    Thank you so much for your supportive and great words of encouragement. I am inspired and I hope our combined strong voice can end this act someday.
    Much love,
    Sarah

  • Shofali Agarwal
    Apr 18
    Apr 18

    Sarah, thank you for your bravery and sharing your story with the world. You make it clear that this practice is desired by girls because they are misinformed. If reading such stories and talking about it with young girls helps eradicate such a violent practice, then you have just taken the first step in a war that women everywhere need to band together to win.

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thank you so much dear Shofali,
    Its in speaking out painful stories that sometimes great things happens.
    The journey to fighting the practice has just started and I hope we will finish it with great success and outcome.
    Much love,
    Sarah

  • Juliet Acom
    Apr 23
    Apr 23

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing your story about this painful ordeal. I remember when i was in high school, a student from the Mt. Elgon region of Uganda joined us and was shocked to learn that this was not common practice for all tribes. She was proud of having been circumcised and called us "you children". Because of this nobody wanted to associate with her, your story makes me wonder if she was always lonely because of our rejection and just put on a strong front yet she was bleeding inside. so sad.

    Thanks for enlightening us, you are a great woman.

    God bless you

  • Sarah Sofia
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    Thank you dear Juliet,
    That student was so 'bold' to even have spoken it out, for us we really used to hide but people knew of course because of our expressions during such discussions. But am sure the girl was feeling so much pain especially if rejected, her actions were caused by the brainwash which offended you guys. But you guys are not to be blamed because by then to her you are children.
    Much love
    Sarah

  • Elvire
    Apr 24
    Apr 24

    Thanks, dear,
    for sharing.
    Thanks for the details; it takes a lot of courage to give such a description. I commend you for that.
    What happens is really awful, but it is good to know.

    That is a good fight; things will change, it will stop.
    Press on,

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 01
    May 01

    Thanks so much dear...
    Much love
    sarah

  • Apr 24
    Apr 24

    This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
  • Hello, Sarah. I am so happy that you've been awarded as a Featured Storyteller. Congratulations!

    I said it before, and I'll say it again, it is because of you that I have found the courage to watch the Desert Flower.

    Thank you for sharing your truth. It is an eye-opener. I hope this practice will be stopped. May all girls be spared.

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 01
    May 01

    Dear Karen,
    Thank you so much and I am happy that you have seen how the whole thing is done by watching desert flower. Now you understand it much better.
    Love
    Sarah

  • SIMON MUREU
    Apr 30
    Apr 30

    I believe you are now healing on this shameful act

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 01
    May 01

    Yeah, sure.
    I am totally on my healing process

  • Musenge Musomali
    May 06
    May 06

    I'm so sorry my sister for what you went through and must commend you for sharing because it is certainly not easy.

    You are doing a remarkable job by speaking out against it and letting the girls know that there is nothing noble about this practice. I stand with you and say no to FGM, it is a cruel act and it should be stopped.

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 21
    May 21

    Thanks dear

  • QueenVirtuous
    May 12
    May 12

    Dear Sarah Sofia,

    Tears! For the inhumanity and the brutality, for the lies told, for innocence martyred, for trust broken, for self-esteem severely damaged (if not totally destroyed).........tears!

    And to think that the older women simply have refused for generations to testify to the obvious malady of this practice and the injurious nature of this base tradition is something I cannot understand.

    Thank you, Sarah Sofia, for taking a bold step and coming out with your story. You have lit the torch. Pass it on. You would be saving so many girls.

    You are still beautiful. You are still useful. Please, believe that. I love you with all my heart.

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 21
    May 21

    Thank you so much dear,
    This is very encouraging and lovely
    Hugs..

  • Thank you for sharing your story dear. You are a strong woman. Many will learn from it. This ill has to stop and I am happy you took the initiative to share your story to the whole world.

  • Sarah Sofia
    May 21
    May 21

    Thank you so much dear sister

  • brittany_3
    May 21
    May 21

    Thank you for being so strong and sharing your story. It's my prayer that all young women (and older) who are subject to this practice are enlightened and it ceases. Such a horrible thing to imagine so I could only imagine what it is to go through it. Adding this to my prayer list.

  • Bukunmi
    May 24
    May 24

    Hmmm, traditions, culture, and people's myth, probably we should start speaking more of the joy and excitement of not being mutilated, with that there would be more curiosity for excitement rather than the hazards of being mutilated.

  • memory c
    Jun 12
    Jun 12

    Thank you for sharing your story, this is very scary and I didn't know that it is done to girls as well - I thought its boys only. I got goose bumps my whole body as I read it. The things our cultures make us do or believe though! Its very scary and sad.

  • Tarke Edith
    Jun 12
    Jun 12

    Helo Sarah it time women to bycote some of this tradition for our welbeing in the suciety thank you for that education

  • Tecenta Achiri
    Jun 13
    Jun 13

    My dear Sarah
    Thank you for sharing this story even though I have never experienced such a terrible thing but I can imagine the pain you went through. Well am glad that with the evolving world things keep getting better by day
    Courage my dear

  • Upasana Chauhan
    Jun 15
    Jun 15

    OMG This is just unbelievable my sister Sarah ... first of all I really want to thank you for braving to share the details. I can't believe the kind of stories the society makes up to oppress women and on top of it celebrate that oppression by luring them into gifts ... This is just unforgivable at so many extents .... I seriously want to know who at the first place in whatever generation came up with the biggest lie ever that their Clitoris will hang out of their pants ... This is why not school education but health education is so much more important in every community. We do have in some parts of India, a similar celebration when girls get their first Periods and ofcourse the girls are super excited and they get lots of gifts and kind of announcing that yeah this girl is now ready to get married. But this is so wrong at so many levels by celebrating their pain, not even considering the basic first aid and making it a fake tale for girls. I am so sorry you went through this all. I hope we can all together spread this message to the girls to stand up and say NO to this. Sending you a big warm hug my sister.

  • Stephanie Mah
    Jun 18
    Jun 18

    Dear Sarah, I can emajin how penful it to bee cut and the effect it can cause, keep on educating so that thoes who are still secomsising can stop doing it.thanks for sharing .

  • obioma nwachukwu
    Jun 20
    Jun 20

    It's very touching to read that such practices like FGM is still in existence out there. Oh that must have been very painful indeed. I salute your courage in trying to put an end to such endangering treatment to women. I wish you success in your endeavors.

  • Your story is heartbreaking. One can only hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to own their bodies and never allow to be dictated to regarding mutilating rituals for fear of been ostracized if they do not adhere to these barbaric practices. I sympathize with you and all women who had to go through such rituals. It has to come to an end, irrespective of the fact that it's claimed to be a "rite of passage".

  • Selma Ndi
    6:47am
    6:47am

    Thanks for sharing your story with us ....oh God