I recently watched a TED Talk by an Australian woman called Khadija Gbla, who had her clitoris cut out with a rusty knife at the age of three.
Khadija and her family were refugees, fleeing Sierra Leone. Her mother thought she was empowering her daughter by freeing her from sexual desire.
Khadija’s talk, which she calls, ‘My mother’s strange definition of empowerment’, tells her story of, not only growing up ‘chocolate’ in an all-white school, but of what it is like to be an adolescent, young woman and wife, with no clitoris, in a culture addicted to sex.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 200 million girls and women are living with female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide. I was surprised to hear that FGM is not just practised in Africa and the Middle East but that it is even in Australia. A report, published year by researchers at Westmead Children’s Hospital, found almost 60 girls with FGM had been seen by doctors since 2010. According to No FGM Australia, 83,000 Australian women and girls have been affected by FGM.
While Khadija’s talk is distressing in parts, her strength, courage and humour shine through. Today, Khadija Gbla is a speaker, trainer and activist. She is Executive Director of No FGM Australia (nofgmoz.com), and has represented Australia in the international arena at the Harvard National Model United Nations, Commonwealth Youth Forum and Australian and Africa Dialogue.
Written by Leah