Sunday, August 18, 2013

FGM in children-YA literature

It's been three years now since I'm working intensively on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In 2011 I founded a collective of women in Cape Town where we worked at a writing project focused on human rights. It was a great experience, not only professionally but also humanly. Some of the women were immigrant from other African countries and while we were working on our schedule, one of them came to me and opened her heart sharing with me her experience of being mutilated when she was just 12. She asked me weather FGM was an issue we could eventually work on, but surely there was an obstacle: how to sare this with all the other women fo the group? She just did it, if she had shared this with me she could do it also with the others, and  after her revelation other five women (also immigrants) told their own story of mutilation. It was done! They managed to break a huge wall, the wall of fear, of prejudice. I'm sure they recognised the power of word, how imagination can lead you to unexplored places inside you and how this can generate an immense sense of consciousness which is exremely important to start making a change on something. Their change was to say NO to FGM, if not anumore for themselves but at least for their children and the future generations.
In march 2013 I came in Italy where I toured all over presenting the project and the performance which was the result of the work I've done in South Africa on FGM. It was an amazing adventure which will continue with a film documentary next year. During my stay in Italy I was automatically interested in finding a well compiled bibliography of books dedicated to chidlren and YA on this theme. Guess what? I found in Italian only one book:Il gatto dagli occhi d'oro by Silvana de Mari, a gynecologist who is also a children's book writer who wrote this book out of her experience working in Ethiopia. So I had to go around and search for other books  and found these ones.

Thank's to author Mitali Perkins I found: "No Laughter here" by Rita Williams Garcia and "The fattening hut" by Pat Lowery Collins. Then I found "Me, the Bud" by Margaret Nyarango.

No laughter  is the story  of a friendship. American Akhila and Nigerian Victoria who hold on their relationship through pain and sufference. Victoria belongs to a traditional Nigerian family which culture requires that teen girls undergo female circumcision, an horrible practice that more than 2 millions of girls in the world undergo every year.
The story is set in the USA and this reflects a very important point about how the immigrant communities  bring their customs all over the world.
Female Genital Mutilation is a tabu. According to the traditional  cultures where it is practiced, FGM is a secret no one can share with others. But once Victoria shares with Akhila what she has undergone during the summer school holidays back in her own country, beeing ill, having lost her laughter, feeling tremendous pain (in her body and in her soul),  even though it will remain a secret between the two of them, something changes in Victoria's life. On one hand she feels ashame, on the other hand someone, a part from her family, can "understand" why she can't laugh anymore. The story turns up with the two friends  who join together writing a "letter" to  raise awareness  on FGM for the  World Wide Web, so that other girls around the world who happens to have access to a computer can  reflect and start saying NO to FGM fighting for their rights.

For Educators and Parents, to know more about FGM here some books to read:

However Long The Night... by Aimee Molloy
Possessing the secret Joy by Alice Walker
Warrior mask by Alice Walker
Female Circumcision... by Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf
Beyond the dance by Violet Barungi & Hilda Twongyeirve

About FGM in the past adopted in the Western as a custom

The Rape of Innocence by Patricia Robinett

In ITALIAN I can address children and parents to read this story:

Silvana de Mari - Il gatto dagli occhi d'oro - Edizioni Fanucci 2009

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