“Alati o le seni,” retorted a woman in Irepodun market of Oyo West local government, to our campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The Yoruba words translate to “A dream that cannot come to pass” in English. We thought it was the usual few voices that support the evil act, but we were proven wrong when someone else added that she just performed the act two days go on her grandchildren.
In this community, the prominent belief is that a circumcised girl has zero level of promiscuity because the act reduces her the sexual drive. We were reminded by a Muslim woman who informed us that just 8 days ago a girl was mutilated in her neighbourhood, and that female genital mutilation helps to curb promiscuity. To show how ineffective this claim is, an elderly civil servant said she mutilated, but her chaste life is only because of her upbringing, and not FGM.
The heresy seems to be the general belief upon which the community thrives. However, from our discussions with them, many were amazed to hear of the negative effects. This validates our enlightenment about negative effects of cutting females. Few people who claimed never to have mutilated their female children did so because of the earlier information they have received as well.
There was another belief that mutilation cures infant vaginal itches and infection. We were able to clear the misconception by making them understand that itches are results of poor virginal hygiene of allowing the babies sit on the floor without pants on.
While it seemed we’ve cleared all doubt in the mind of our audience, an aged man was afraid that the clitoris might grow out if a girl child is not mutilated. The organ was not created to grow beyond the body.
Our campaign at the market also saved a 2 months old baby whose mother was to mutilate in few days from the date. Upon hearing us, she promised to desist from it, having learned of the negative effects it has on the girl child. We reached over 350 other people at the market.