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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

400 surgeons stop carrying out female genital mutilation

From July 13, 2009

Rahel Mbalai is one 400 practitioners of female genital mutilation who have downed their implements in Tanzania.

Rahel estimates she carried out female circumcisions on more than 800 women over an eight-year period in the country.

But the 45-year-old, who was taught her livelihood by her mother, stopped the practice that haunts her after being educated on the effects of the procedure.

"I knew I was causing excessive bleeding, pain, psychological pain and long-term illness including HIV infection," she said.

Afnet, the anti-female genital mutilation network in Dodoma, has taken tools off women all over the region. Irish Aid, the government’s overseas development programme, part-funds the organisation.

Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons..

However, Rahel’s husband forbade her from mutilating their only daughter.

Now the mother-of-four visits schools, clinics and communities to campaign against the procedure.

It is estimated more than 3,000 African women living in Ireland have been subjected to the procedure.

Experts working with new communities also fear young girls are being brought back to their parents’ country of origin during school holidays to undergo the procedure.

Volunteers go to rural townlands to help women suffering from fistula, a childbirth injury which causes incontinence.

For 32 years Menina Mhanjilwa was incontinent. She had given birth to a stillborn baby which affected her organs.

Menina was divorced by her husband, shunned by her community and rejected by her own family.

In 2004, an Afnet worker convinced her to undergo a simple medical procedure,which solved the problem.

"I was discriminated against, living a lonely life, now I communicate with others and participate in life," she said.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, July 13, 2009