Muzvare Betty Makoni

Muzvare Betty Makoni
CNN Hero and Decade Child Rights Hero

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Activists, We Are Not Alone- UK Based Artist who boosted my media campaign against Type 4 Female Genital Mutilation

On 19 September 2013, I got featured in the UK National Metro newspaper and the story was written by journalist Etan Smallman. The story I had shared was on my experience of Female Genital Mutilation Type 4-pulling which campaigners never speak against but affects girls whose genitalia is forced to reach certain lengths in order to please men in future should they get married. There is a lot that a girl must do to her private parts even at expense of school. She has to worry more about them than books.
Well, if this happened to me as a child I had the right to share it. I had the right to denounce it if I felt my privacy as a child was violated by older women forcing my legs open and pulling my body parts. It is undignified way to prepare a child for womanhood because you are not mature enough at age 7 to understand sex and sexual organs and let alone how these body parts work for you even before a man starts using them. Society is not patient at all as long as men benefit from it. Like FGM type 1 to 3 and at least according to me as a child then, FGM 4 is equally painful. It was adult women pulling my genitalia out and forcefully sometimes using thread and pegs and with no Anesthesia. I was not given painkiller or anti biotic after every session. I sustained bruises and even today the pain has haunted me. That is me and my body and pain. I had no idea why I was doing it like millions of other kids because as girls we are told to please men in future. But was that not a choice we could make when we are over 18? When one is a minor they cannot be forced to prepare their genitalia in order to please a man. It is tantamount to mental and physical torture just like with FGM types 1 -3. It is unlike when a woman does it out of choice. Let`s say, for instance, the so called future husband says he does not want extended genitalia and he wants natural ones, would then those who pulled them out cut them off? Honestly choices some cultures make for girls can be risky and what with stories I heard of what happens to women at child birth? I heard horrifying stories from midwives where the pulled genitalia blocked safe passage of babies and some women had to be rushed for emergency C- section. I was not so sure if my speaking out against such violations of children`s and not adults private parts could warrant such anger from a community where 90% of women and men are in favour of the practice and majority practise it. Or it could be that people are naturally angry especially these days when one of theirs begs to differ. There are societies that are so backward that harmful practices are norm and cannot be challenged. Some harmful cultural practices are obviously undergarment crimes that are so silenced about that they have become norm. We are expected to be uniform in our positive acceptance of such hidden harm and violations of children`s private parts. Imagine if there was a scheme to pull male organs in the same community, what would be the reaction? If this is done to a girl it is culture, but when same sexual assault is done to a boy it automatically becomes criminal. I tell you, this caused outrage in the Zimbabwean UK Community. A lot of those who waged verbal war against me did not read the depth of the article. First I was not asking for donor money. I was asking society to be civilised and stop pulling young girls genitalia because this was tantamount to forced masturbation. Also I was raising issues on Safeguarding because bruises and infections post FGM Type 4 can affect mental and physical well-being of a child forever. Children who get any of their body parts mutilated outside normal surgery are violated at an early stage and it is impossible for them to reverse such damage in future should they wish to be otherwise. For some of them it harms them physically and mentally and in the case of FGM type 4 the likelihood of indulging in early sex is high because pulling arouses the labia and clitoris and prepares girls for early sex where they do not consent. If children cannot consent to sex why there are private schemes like these where they are being aroused and taught the very sex they can’t consent to. There is a lot of double speaking by adults. If it worked for you as a woman, it might not work for every girl because not every girl who is forced to arouse their private parts can have the moral development to suppress the feelings. In other words FGM Type 4 arouses the children and prepares them for it but most girls are so young to understand consequences like pregnancy and being exposed to sexually transmitted disease like HIV and AIDS. We always make assumptions that we can control girls and their sexuality. Moreover, if those in and from West Africa cut off the labia and clitoris why is it those in Southern and Eastern Africa pull them out? What if a man in Western Africa wants to marry a woman from Southern Africa and vice versa?` What if a girl in future decides to get married to a man from a region where they cut and not pull? Who must dictate the physical appearance of your genital organs as a girl?
My article initially intended to share something quite interesting. I want to express gratitude to an artist called Lynda Reid for artistically coming up with my face to portray the civilisation and sanity in the work we do to save girls lives. Whilst I was being attacked for speaking against FGM of children who are powerless and defenceless as I stated before by mostly fellow Zimbabweans in UK, ironically I was being honoured by a great artist in UK. In sharp contrast, Lynda Reid made a powerful statement by drawing with much detail and with her hands the picture she saw of me in the Metro. As you know artists speak through their creativity. Instead of spending her time saying otherwise, she artistically did my picture in the Metro and gave me inner strength to carry on campaigning. She ignited my spirit. Is that not beautiful symbolism? That, no matter what we say against activists, we artists we say let them speak and we duplicate their voices through our art. So instead of Chris Brook pictures only, I ended up with an artistically hand done picture which one day I will exhibit to just show the power of artists in activism. What a boost for my campaign against not only FGM but all thirty harmful cultural practices that undermine the emotional and physical development of girls who go through such harm. I receive my portrait as big honour and I cherish the symbolic significance of speaking out against injustices. The portrait is here for everyone to share. Thanks so much Lynda Reid.

No comments:

Post a Comment