The Rite of Passage

My inspiration for this story is the beauty of the African culture, which is being marred by a few harmful traditional practices affecting women. The original intention of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) was not to cause harm, but over the years it has degenerated into just this and as a result it has to stop. My take on this would be to "stop adverse practices and embrace the beauty of the culture".

The drums rolled as the young dancers jumped up and down twisting their young bodies. The birds joined in the chorus as if aware of what was going to take place in the next few minutes. It was a wet and cool morning as it had rained heavily the previous night and the sun was taking its time in awaking. Mothers, both young and old, had wrapped themselves in brightly colored wrappers with their young ones tightly strapped to their backs as they danced in circles, separately from the young girls.

Amidst the cold, I sat sweating, beautifully adorned, in the large airy hut with twenty other girls of about my age. Today was a joyous day for our mothers and the village, as it was the day we would become women.  The day we would be initiated into the sacred institution of womanhood, marked the beginning of the lessons in the art of pleasing our future husbands, was the day we would be circumcised. According to the older women, on this day, the rose that stoked the embers of promiscuity and indecent desires, would be taken out and we would become modest women.

I still remember vividly, like it was yesterday that my sister was circumcised the year before. We, the younger girls had danced and cheered as "Old Iya" with her shaky hands and unsterilized razor blade had walked towards the hut, where the girls sat waiting. We were not supposed to watch, but I had peeped and not missed the sight of my sister being held down firmly by two older women and her legs spread. "Old Iya" had busied herself between her legs. I will never forgoet the scream from my sister's young lungs as the old woman had lifted her bloody hands and dipped them into the bowl beside her, rubbing the dark contents of the bowl on the wound she had created. Afterwards, she tied my sister's legs tightly together with a strong twine, before placing her on a raffia mat, left to bleed and then heal. As mothers amidst the screams of their daughters let out cries of joy, we novices danced to the success of the rite of passage.

The smell of stale blood still lingers in my nostrils from when I helped my mother nurse my sister back to health. Except for one, the bleeding of most of the girls had stopped after a few days. Perhaps old Iya had made a mistake and cut her too deep, but the women had said she was a weakling and that she would never please any husband. She had died because she had never stopped bleeding. Only the "strong" ones had healed and danced. My sister had survived but she had never fully recovered. After her first baby, she could not control her urine any more.Her husband had sent her away, because he said she stank.

Today I sit trembling with other girls my age, wondering what my fate would be, for I know no better. I want to be a woman too. But do I have to endure such pain before I become one? I can not say or tell as I look around the hut. I can see silent questions in their eyes and the expressions on their faces as we wait. Who are we to question the tradition of our forefathers?

The thatched door opens as the women step in, letting the sun in as "Old Iya" finally steps in with her hands shaking as she lifts her unsterilized blade. They have come for us...

More of my writting can be read on my blog "Da Vinci's Woman" -

More can also be read in my Journal, which is part of the WorldPulse Project -


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