On the Verge of Death

Randa: a strong advocate against FGM medicalization since her near-death experience

Dalia Younis
strong advocate against FGM medicalization since her near-death experience
UNICEF/Egypt 2021/Ahmed Mostafa
16 June 2021

It's customary here in Aswan that the girl who undergoes FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) receives beautiful red dresses, henna tattoos and gets pampered as if she's a bride. As a little girl, when my family took the decision to cut me, I was very happy. I was in a hurry to rejoice like other girls."

The joy of Randa - who was then a child living in Aswan - turned into a tragedy that nearly claimed her life. Believing this was the safest option, her family decided to cut her by a medical doctor at a private clinic. Unfortunately, life-threatening health complications occurred due to bleeding.

After days in intensive care, Randa woke up. Memories of pain, fear, and the regretful crying eyes around her still haunted her until now, in addition to the negative consequences for her physical and psychological health.

Randa has still vivid memories of her near-death experience. She goes through the most terrifying moments she endured here:

Medical FGM: Fake protection

Despite the decline in the practice’s prevalence in the age group 15-17 years old by more than 13 percent from 2008 to 2014 (Demographic Health Survey 2014), some challenges remain. Egypt is the country with the highest rate of FGM medicalization as 8 out of 10 girls are cut by medical personnel.

Randa was not the only case that suffered from FGM medicalization. Very recently, in 2020, 12-year-old Nada died in Assiut Governorate while undergoing FGM at the hands of a doctor. In 2007 also, a child named Bodoor died at the hands of a doctor in Minia Governorate. The incident will become the national day against FGM in Egypt (14th of June).

Now 39, Randa remembers the story of Bodoor that deeply touched her. She shares this story along with her own story to raise awareness among girls and women, saying: "I was in a coma for three days. Bodoor never came back to tell her story, but I did. So please listen to me."

Awareness responsibility

Randa decided to dedicate her career to save girls and women in her community from FGM and other harmful practices. She joined a UNICEF-supported training under the project “Safer Communities for Children” which is currently implemented within the framework of USAID’s Girls Empowerment program and UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Global FGM Programme.

This program aims to to mobilize the community, particularly young girls, to report different cases of violence against children, particularly FGM and Child Marriage to the Child Protection Committees (CPCs) in their districts and the Child Helpline (16000), and to provide capacity building for social workers to efficiently manage the cases of children at risk..

National and global efforts

UNICEF, in collaboration with the government of Egypt, the National Committee for the Eradication of FGM and civil society, is undertaking and facilitating numerous interventions and initiatives to sensitize local communities and address misconceptions about FGM. The organization promotes a multi-sectoral approach for prevention, protection and response to FGM, including strengthening the national child protection system, including the National Child Help Line 16000. The organization also cooperates with Al-Azhar Al Sharif, the Coptic Orthodox Church (Egypt’s leading religious entities) and Ministry of Endowments to sensitize religious leaders to spread awareness about FGM and delink this harmful practice from religion in local communities.

Since 2008, UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have been implementing the “Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change to end FGM”. Currently being implemented in 17 countries, the programme links community-level transformation of social/gender norms that often drive FGM with laws banning the practice. It also promotes access to quality child protection and sexual and reproductive health services for girls and women at risk of and affected by FGM. The Joint Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, AECID (Spain), Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as the European Union.

In addition, UNICEF has ongoing partnerships with USAID, through the project “Creating an Enabling Environment for Ado­lescent Girls in Egypt” (2018-2021) that address issues related to FGM and the protection and empowerment of girls at risk.

For more info, read “FGM between the incorrect use of science and the misunderstood doctrine”  and  Peace. Love. Tolerance. Key Messages from Islam and Christianity on Protecting Children from Violence and Harmful Practices”.

On the 14th of June 2019 - the National Day for the Elimination of FGM in Egypt - the National Committee for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation was established under the leadership of the National Council for Women, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and in cooperation with the relevant ministries, specialized national councils, Al-Azhar, the Church, and civil society. With the support of UNICEF and UNFPA, this committee launched the first FGM national campaign under the slogan #ProtectHerFromFGM.