It is such a blessing to read your positive responses. Many visitors to the site are asking, ‘What can I do?’

There are currently no statistics available about what communities for whom cutting is a cultural practice, is doing to ensure their women and young girls are cut here in South Africa. Besides the Venda community who openly practices Female Genital Cutting, no one else is admitting to doing so here in our country.

We need health professionals who are willing to acknowledge that they assist patients when they come in for treatment after infection has set in. We need doctors at local clinics and hospitals to admit that they see patients coming into hospital seeking medical intervention after experiencing Fgm.

I believe the stories are amongst us. Whether it’s a family member who experienced it years back, or the lady who comes to cleaning your home. The stories are here…

In Papers prepared by Parliament for the Second Conference of the Pan African Parliament in October 2009, I quote ‘awareness and education campaigns should to be tailored to meet the needs of specific target audiences for example, health-care providers versus adolescent girls versus religious leaders. Information should be made accessible on the subject matter in various formats be it bill boards, posters or pamphlets. Notwithstanding that, given the behavioural and attitudinal change required to abandon the practice of FGM, what is also required is ongoing dialogue in safe spaces - where young girls and women are able to articulate themselves without fear of being ostracised or stigmatised - is crucial. The health and education sector along with communities share an equally important role in not just rendering the appropriate services, but also creating an enabling environment whereby FGM is recognised as a violation of human rights.’

With legislation in many countries outlawing the practice, many for whom it is firmly entrenched has gone into hiding and cutting girls even younger, so as to avoid prosecution.

It seems clear that educating communities about the far reaching physical consequences is key to helping them to understand what all the fuss is about. For many in rural communities who rely on ‘bride money’ for survival they do not understand and call the girls who choose not be cut thieves for robbing them of the bride money they would receive from the groom if procedure was followed and they were paid. In many of these communities the groom pays for the procedure before marriage.

With the women who have experienced FGM afraid to betray family values and cultural beliefs , the search for statistics is not easy.

I refuse to believe that this should stop any of us from pooling our resources in order to establish the prevalence of FGM here in South Africa.

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