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End violence, stop female genital mutilation

© UNICEF Mali / 2013 / Cao











By Cindy Cao


The anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20 is an opportunity to speak out and denounce all forms of violence against children. Aissa, who was excised at the age of 12, lends her voice to the fight against female genital mutilation. 

In Mali, 75% of girls up to age 14 and 89% of girls and women age 15 to 49 are estimated to have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM,) also known as excision. Aissa*, 15, lives in the village of Tienfala.* She describes her painful experience, "I was 12 years old. I was in Sikasso* when my grandmother asked me to come home. I didn’t know what was going on. No one told me anything. The day after my arrival, I was excised."

Aissa’s younger sister at 7 years old, two of her cousins and one of her young aunts suffered the same mutilation on that day. "When I realized I would be excised, I was frightened and upset. I wanted to run away but my aunt told me that if I left, they would kill me."

After this brutal event, Aissa became ill. Vomiting and with fever, she went to the clinic where she remained a week in intensive care. "I didn’t dare speak with any of my relatives or with the other girls in my family who had been excised on the same day. I was scared." Later, "a painful lump appeared at the scar. I told my mother about the lump who said we needed to rub a live toad on the scar. I didn’t like this. I was again scared. "


Understanding excision

A man, seeing her mother searching for toads, asked what she was doing. After her mother explained the problem, he said he knew a woman working for the NGO TAGNE who could help and suggested they meet with her.

TAGNE, with the support of UNICEF, provides free psychosocial support to survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and conducts community mobilization activities to prevent FGM in villages. In addition, TAGNE conducts economic empowerment activities to assist women and girls, including survivors, in regaining independence and self-confidence.

"Our neighbor gave me a lift by motorcycle to go to the health centre. The doctor removed the lump. I was very weak and could not walk, so they drove me home by car. "

After discussions with TAGNE staff, Aissa now understands more about excision. Today, at only 15 years old, she says with determination: "I want us to stop doing this because it's not good. I suffered a lot and I do not want any other girl to go through the same experience. If I hear of anyone in my village or my family who wants to practice excision, I will not be scared. I will object. I will. I will speak out."

Violence against children is everywhere. It happens in all countries, at all levels of society. Despite its global prevalence, violence against children all too often remains invisible because it’s hidden behind closed doors or because people turn a blind eye to it. However, violence against children is entirely preventable when people come together and say that it is not acceptable.

In collaboration with government, civil society, international NGOs and sister UN agencies, UNICEF provides a comprehensive response to GBV survivors that includes access to medical care, psycho-social support, reintegration assistance, and referrals to legal counselling and assistance. Through this multi sectoral approach, UNICEF funds survivors’ access to services and supports capacity building of service providers to ensure appropriate care.

* Names of persons and places have been changed to protect identity.



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