One small bit of good news, for a change.
The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal.
But good news of that kind is of course always too late for some…for many.
Bassi Boiro, the elderly woman who was Sare Harouna’s so-called cutter, said she always performed the rite before dawn under the spreading arms of a sacred tree, away from the settlement.
“Men couldn’t hear the girl’s screams,” she explained. “They are not part of this.”
Four women would hold down the arms and legs of each girl, usually ages 5 to 7. For years, Mrs. Boiro said, she used a knife handed down through generations of cutters in her family until it became “too dull to even cut okra.” She then switched to razor blades.
But Mrs. Boiro says she has now accepted Sare Harouna’s decision to end the practice and speaks about the harm caused by her life’s work. “I didn’t realize it was my doing,” she said.
Muusaa Jallo, the village imam, was convinced of the need to stop the practice and has spread the word in many other villages. As his toddler impishly poked her finger through a hole in his sock, he placed his hand gently on her head and said, “I have already decided this one will not be cut.”
His 8-year-old, Alimata, sat solemnly to the side, her eyes downcast.
“I will abandon it like my parents,” she said, almost inaudibly. “I won’t do it to my daughters. It’s not good to do that, and they did it to me.”
8 is very young to know that it’s too late for you.