On 6 February 2003, The First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs Stella Obasanjo declared,

"I, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on behalf of all the First Ladies of Africa, hereby append my signature on this day, 6th of February 2003, as The Day of Zero Tolerance Against FGM."

This official declaration was met by human rights activists and leaders around the world.
Subsequently, the 6th of February was adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights as the International Day of Zero Tolerance Against FGM, and ceremonies marking this day have taken place around the world.

On 6 February 2015 - Please join me as I offer my prayers of healing for the million affected by this practice on our continent and for the millions around the world still at risk.

I will Stand Up and Roar for our young girls on this continent - Join me in a collective Roar of 'No More'.

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Yoni steaming is an ancient practice used to cleanse, nourish and heal the female organs, and has been followed by women across the world for centuries.

The Ashanti women of Africa use steam from hot coals and herbs to keep the womb healthy and to rejuvenate after giving birth.

In South America women use 'Bajos' filled with herbs, tree bark and roots to deal with gynaecological complaints.

Indonesian women use a 'Bakera' as a herbal steam bath for post natal care and the medical benefits has been verified by western researchers.

The Korean 'chai yok' is a steam seat used in Korea and dates back to 600 yrs.

I recently spoke to an elderly Xhosa women who told me that her mother told her to make a steam with garlic in it for herself after she gives birth to her children. To keep everything healthy and clean.

I started steaming when I was participating in a Womb Awakening Course with the Fountain of Life.
I prepared myself by tuning into my womb and lighting a few candles in our private bathroom. My herb mix consisted of sage, lavender and nasturtium flowers from our garden.
I had previously participated in other processes where steam and herbs were used as a way of ingesting the healing gift of herbs through the skin to heal and balance the body.

Connecting with my yoni in such a way felt powerful and empowering. I could literally feel the steam and the medicine of the herbs lifting the trauma held within my yoni and womb. I could feel incredible releasing of my pain and anger. The tears that ran down my cheeks felt like they rose up from my yoni and my womb. Feelings that had been frozen inside me began to thaw.
I felt liberated. 

I continue to embracing yoni steaming as a way of gifting myself - a way in which I honour the stories and secrets held within my beautiful flower.

Yoni steaming is also recommended for women who suffer from fibroids and other issues related to their ovaries and wombs.

Yoni steaming is now part of my routine. And I highly recommend yoni steaming as a way of releasing pain and trauma. For many women who have experienced FGM, or sexual abuse - yoni steaming can be bring much healing if one is willing to take the chance.
Yoni steaming taught me to trust in my ability to offer myself healing. I learnt to trust my yoni and to allow her to express what she needed to say.

No fancy equipment is required to start the process. A large 20 litre plastic bucket with a hole in the middle turned upside down, can work well. Place a towel or cloth around the edges where you sit and you are ready to gift yourself.
Please check that you are using herbs that can help and not ones that can harm you. Please do take good Care as you are working with hot steam and one can burn easily.
Please feel free to contact me should you wish to expereince the beauty of a yoni steam session. 

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Author: Barbara Kitui
LLM (Human Rights & Democartisation in Africa) student, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the cultural practises embedded amongst the Venda community of north-east of South Africa. Eight weeks or less after childbirth, Venda women undergo a traditional ceremony called muthuso. Muthuso is a process of cutting the vaginal flesh of the mother by a traditional healer. The flesh is mixed with black powder and oil and applied on the child's head to prevent goni. Goni has been described as a swelling on the back of a child's head. The Venda people believe that goni can only be cured using the vaginal flesh of the child's mother. Women who experienced FGM stated that they bleed excessively after the ceremony. Moreover, the women stated that there is no postnatal care in Venda. Consequently, the women use traditional medicine and sometimes this leads to death because of substandard treatment.

Vendas also practises FGM as initiation for girls into womanhood. The girls reside in a 'nonyana' hut for 24 hours until an appointed day when an old woman performs the clitoris cutting by the river banks. The girls are branded with a mark on their thighs as evidence of having attended initiation.

Migrants in South Africa including Sudanese and other African communities continue practising FGM. The families invite women into their homes who clandestinely circumcise often despite pleas from the girls. Herbs are applied to the cut places to quicken the healing. The girls are often traumatised following the practise.

The World Health Organisation does not list South Africa as a country where FGM is practised. In 2005 during the deliberation of the Children Bill, the South African Girl Child Alliance (SAGCA) presented a report highlighting the non-existence of FGM to South African parliamentarians on the Social Service Select Committee. The SAGCA report indicated that during the initiation ceremonies for women, there was no FGM being practised.

Article 5(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women obligates state parties to ensure that all cultural practises that violate the rights of women are eliminated.

Regionally, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on the Rights of Women in Africa imposes a duty on state parties under articles 8(f) and 2 to institute measures that prohibit all forms of harmful practises. Article 5 obliges governments to engage in public awareness against FGM, to enact legislation prohibiting FGM and to provide victim support for women affected by the effects of FGM.

Sections 30 and 31 of the 1996 South African Constitution provide for the right to culture which must be done in compliance with the Bill of Rights. Section 211 of the Constitution recognises the existence of cultural institutions which must comply with the Constitution.

South Africa enacted subsidiary legislation to address FGM. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Equality Act) outlaws discrimination of any person on grounds of gender and culture, including FGM. Under section 12(2) (a), the Children's Act explicitly prohibits genital mutilation or circumcision of female children as opposed section 8(b) Equality Act which only prohibits discrimination based on FGM.

The South African government has engaged in initiatives to curb FGM, for example national research and sensitization workshops where FGM is prevalent in liaison with government departments of health, culture and education. There is no acknowledgment by the government that FGM exists in South Africa. Most information obtained on FGM in South Africa is based on research by individuals or international organisations.

Culture is an aspect of African traditions that cannot be easily dispensed with. Despite the fact that international treatises deem FGM as an immense violation of human rights to females, those who practise FGM perceive it as a rite of passage and an avenue for children to receive protection from their mothers while eight weeks after birth.

In order to curb FGM, there is need for government to continue partnering with civil societies to sensitize communities and encourage them to reflect on the implication of FGM and make a conscious decision to end the practise.

About the Author:
Kitui Barbara is currently a postgraduate student pursuing the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the University of Pretoria. As part of the LLM, Kitui undertook a field research in Venda, South Africa, under the topic 'Hindrances to the fulfillment of the right to maternal healthcare in Venda.' Other sources used for this research can be found here. Kitui worked as a Legal Officer with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Uganda before joining the LLM programme.

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Networking between activists campaigning against FGM has intensified over the past months and every single one of you visiting our sites and talking about FGM is helping to make this possible. Thank you.

I have workshopped FGM and my personal story in a few different spaces over the past two months and it feels good to finally be doing so. This to me, is breaking the silence.

We now have an END FGM Facebook group, initiated by Valentina Mmaka, who created the FGM Narrative and works with women who have undergone the Cut. There are so many activists all around the world highlighting the plight of those who are at risk and those who have already endured this practice.

Educating people about FGM still ranks as the most important aspect of awareness raising. The shock and horror on people’s faces is constant as I explain the different types of Female Genital Cutting that is still practiced in our societies. And people realise that women who have been cut may be walking, working and living amongst us.

Teachers who teach our children should all be educated about what young girls who have experienced FGM/ FGC go through monthly during their periods. If you are a teacher, how would you know if you have a child in your class who have undergone this practice?

Our children attending schools should be educated about FGM as there may well be students amongst them who have undergone this practice. FGM should be given as much attention and focus as we have given to all forms of child abuse.

Our local Nurses and Doctors should be educated so that when they encounter a pregnant mother coming to give birth who have experienced FGM, they will have guidelines to follow.

What prevents this education from reaching our students, teachers and medical staff?

Every contribution, regardless of how small counts towards breaking the silence for all who are at risk and for future generations.Take the subject to your church, your mosque, your temple, your colleges, your principals and superiors. Let’s Talk FGM!

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No matter what kind of Female Genital Cut you have endured - FGC cuts our ability to speak for ourselves. It shatters our voices and holds us hostage inside our own bodies. Suffering silently. Enduring agony silently. We do not mention how our vaginas feel. We are taught this is taboo. We will bring shame to our families and our communities.

I have found healing to be like an onion - with each layer that is peeled away, another layer reveals itself.

I longed for years to be held and comforted and was aware of feeling this loss. The loss of being comforted. In many of our communities, there is no comfort shown because we are supposed to toughen up - And such comfort is not encouraged.

I have always been drawn to the earth and started recognising that She is my Mother too. I lay down upon her and felt how she holds and supports me always. It was enough to encourage me to stay with my healing journey.

I recommend you find a space where you feel safe to sit upon the Earth and allow yourself to feel her support of you. Trust yourself and your intuition. Create a sacred space by praying for protection and asking for support from those dear to you. Imagine a circle around you that will act as a container for you. Now sit down and relax into the earth beneath you. Allow yourself to feel her support and how comforting this feeling is. Do so for a minimum of 20 minutes and as often as you feel. Remember to carry that feeling of comfort with you into the rest of your life.

My own process includes writing and making collages. Writing offered me a way to express what I was feeling before I could use words to speak about my feelings. Writing works if one can do so often.

Writing about my feelings also reminds me that there are parts of me that is always free. Oh how liberating to get to know this freedom.

After loosening up so many feelings, I needed to find ways to move with it. Dance is a gift to our healing and allows me to connect deeply to those parts of me that is free. My deepest prayers and healing occurs through dancing and movement. It feels like the healing process takes on a life of itself when I let my body say what she needs to say.

Being able to express sadness, joy, loss, faith, and love through movement allows healing to come from inside of us. For this gift I am eternally grateful.

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