Female genital mutilation victim speaks out

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A West African woman has spoken out about being circumcised as a child after being told she was going for a family holiday.

The year of 1997 saw a new episode in the west African nation of Sierra Leone's long running civil war, with a freshly elected president overthrown in a coup de e'tat.

For 9-year-old Khadija Gbla, the same year was just as defining for very different reasons.

She was thrilled about an upcoming family holiday, promised by her mother, and blissfully unaware of the life-changing trauma it would present.

"I was so excited thinking 'woohoo'" she remembered. "What child doesn't want to go on a holiday?"

Instead Khadija was taken into the bush, where an elderly lady circumcised her.

"There I was trusting my mum to protect me and look after me and it ended up being the worst day of my life. Before I knew it my mum was pinning me down and an old lady came at me with a rusty looking knife. I remember it being really brown and dirty."

Many suffering ongoing effects of FGM:

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It wasn't until Khadija was 13 years old, as a new migrant to Australia, that she saw diagrams of female genital mutilation and realised she was a victim.

"I remember feeling so incomplete. I wasn't a woman at all. I felt ugly and disgusted with myself," she said.

Now married with a degree in international studies and hopes of a consultancy business, Khadija tells her story to Australian girls from cultures that practise FGM.

Her story has saved at least one Sydney child, who was also promised a holiday back to Africa.

"She said 'I think mum is going to circumcise me when we get back to Sierra Leone'. Dad called home and ensured that things were put in place to protect her."

Khadija wants a phone line for young Australians to report potential plots of FGM.

A community symposium in the Sydney suburb of Granville, organised by African Women Australia, has called for government funding towards specialist services to help victims deal with the ongoing pychological and physical ailments of their scars.

Source SBS

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