If you have been reading my posts you will be aware of how much I loved my travels through the Middle East especially Egypt, but there is a dark side that needs to be acknowledge. During my time there I learnt about their history and visited amazing temples, tombs and great Pyramids. I also learnt about the countries revolutions and gained insight into their culture, ancient gods and Islam. The dark side of Egypt is FGM which is still practiced today even though it has been outlawed.
Prior to traveling to Egypt I came across an article in a magazine that talked about Female Genital Mutilation practices and Egypt was mentioned as a country that had extremely high rates. According to the article 92% of women in Egypt had been subjected to this barbaric and inhumane practice. Not wanting this article to be my single source of truth I looked for more information on Egyptian women and FGM. Focussing on Egyptian publications I found a barrage of information that was consistent with my original article. When I eventually arrived in Egypt I was overwhelmed at the prospect that I was actually here and set off on my adventures, however in the back of my mind I also had an objective, I wanted to speak to an Egyptian about what I had read.
I remember traveling through Luxor and passing a family coming out of a building. In the arms of a young boy was a girl who wouldn’t have been more than 7 years old, she was crying and looked to be in pain. As our van slowly passed this family I hoped that she was crying because she was unwell with the flu, that little girls face still haunts me today. Summer time is when FGM is more likely to happen as the holidays provide time for the girls to recover.
Part way through my travels in Egypt I met someone who I felt comfortable enough to ask about FGM, he had talked quite openly about politics and religion so I broached the question. What was to follow was a personal story about his mother and younger sister. His mother had gone through this procedure when she was a young girl and when her daughter was 9 years old she wanted to carry on the tradition. Fortunately for this young girl she had an older brother who took it upon himself to stand up for his sister and protect her. At the age of 15 years old the person sitting opposite me stood up to his parents and managed to persuade his mother against inflicting this atrocious procedure on her young daughter. He asked her to think about the pain and trauma that she had endured throughout her life because of what had been done to her. He then asked why she would want to do the same to her own daughter. The courage and love this person showed for his younger sister was quite moving not to mention inspirational, it also wasn’t the story that I expected to hear. Not only had he saved his younger sister from a life of pain and suffering he also managed to break the cycle of FGM in his family.
We discussed why he felt it occurred so often in Egyptian society and his perspective was that it was rooted in culture and tradition. There is nothing in Qur’an about female genital mutilation and this practice is also committed by Christians, his family was actually Christian. FGM occurs in many countries throughout the Middle East and Africa it is also becoming a problem in western countries. Nor is it a religious issues but rather a human one that requires change through education and most of all more men like the person I was sitting with standing up and protecting their sisters, daughters and nieces from this barbaric practice.
Throughout my travels there were experiences and learnings that made me really appreciate the life I have. However what I am truly grateful for is the wonderful people I met along the way who shared their stories about their own experiences to help me grow and learn. The story of a young man protecting his sister also restores my faith in humanity which is one of the kindest gifts you can ever bestow on someone. One person can make a difference in someones life, all we need is for more to realize this and stand up for those in need.