Our Stories


"When I was four years old I saw my mother bleeding heavily...

...she had just given birth to my brother. It was my first experience of blood she was so brave, undemanding and the epitome of calm. She was calm in every situation. I watched her as she attempted to tidy up and she shivered violently. It was late and she hadn’t woken anyone. I ran to my step-mum and she helped me light a fire. The image of the blood and the noisy fire which kept us warm have always stayed with me. A few years later in the same hut, I too was in a pool of blood. My aunt, grandma, a neighbour and a young cousin pulled me apart and a fire flickered in the background. The circumciser brought it closer; she needed it to lighten the darkness inside our small hut. The smell of the charcoal smoke, the feel of her roughened hands, the cold blade and the sound of my flesh cutting have never left my memory. I bleed for two nights. My father and brothers slept away from us for a week, just as they did when mother gave birth. Nothing was unusual to anybody except to me. I felt alien. I was no longer a child, at eight years old I became a woman."

35 year old Somali woman.

"Girls in my village boasted about their circumcisions...

...they spoke of it with pride and looked down on little girls—the great untouched. Little girls were deemed unclean, immature, silly—the presence of clitoris which overpowered then. The rumour was that if it wasn’t cut it would grow and grow and grow until it reached the floor. The shame of it was well known. When I was seven, my father got news that we had visas to England, we couldn’t all go—there were only four. It was decided that me and my younger sister would leave but before the journey we had to be ready. Ready meant we had to circumcised and so the preparations were made. The circimcisor came. A woman held my mouth to dull the screams; two held my chest and another two held down my legs. I was first and then it was my sister’s turn. I cursed the visas and their arrival but in reality I could hear the gunshots in the distance, the Civil War was real. Two of my male cousins and their father were killed the day before. We had a chance to escape. Being circumcised at 6 & 7 years old was necessary, it was a trade-off. We would have had it anyway at some point, it is just the way. After it was done, we had our legs tied together so the wound would not split open. We had to try to go to the toilet. The test was, if you couldn't pass water in the next 10 days something was wrong. We were lucky, I suppose, we gradually recovered and didn't die like the other girl. We used the visas and came to England and to safety but the pain travelled with us and it never goes away"

28 year old Somali woman.

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