Slightly larger than the U.S. state of Colorado, Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, is a bordered by Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, and Ghana. The country consists of extensive plains, low hills, high savannas, and a desert area in the north. This country gained its independence from France in 1960, and changed its colonial name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso. The capital city is Ouagadougou.
According to a report from the UNCHR, the type of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced in Burkina Faso is Type II, which is more commonly known as the excision. The excision is deeply rooted in the culture and cuts across class, religion and ethnic groups in this country. It is performed throughout the country, in all, with a few exceptions of the provinces of Burkina Faso.
Type II is the excision (removal) of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips). The age at which a person undergoes this practice depends on a woman’s region and ethnic group in Burkina Faso.
Members of the ethnic group, the Mossi excise their daughters at around age seven. Other ethnic groups usually wait until a woman is ready for marriage, or about to have her first child before she is excised. Others have their baby girls excised at birth.
According to sociocultural beliefs, originally the practice of FGM had a single goal of assuring the fidelity of women in Burkina Faso. It is often connected with the rite of passage to adulthood. Young girls from the majority Mossi group were traditionally secluded during the cutting and taught about their future duties as young women and mothers. The end of the girls’ seclusion was marked by a village-wide celebration with drinking and dancing.
“In the last few years many more people have reported cases of FGM,” said someone from the SP/CNLPE. “This doesn’t mean that more people are practicing FGM, but that more people are aware of the harm caused by the practice and are reporting these cases. In the past they didn’t speak up because FGM is considered a family matter and there is a sense of family and community solidarity. People were afraid they would be treated as social outcasts if they reported cases. But recently we’ve had many reports from around the whole country, especially from areas where people never reported this before, where there used to be a code of silence surrounding this issue.”
In recent years, progress has been made in Burkina Faso regarding FGM. In 1996, Burkina Faso was the third African country to ban the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). The First Lady of this country played a vital role in the outlaw of FGM. She dedicated more than twenty years toward ending the practice in her country. Statistics show that today, only 9% of people in this West African nation are in favor of the practice of FGM.
In 2014, an organization called Clitoraid together with Dr. Marci Bowers launched the first hospital in Africa to offer the restorative surgery and special OB-GYN services surrounding FGM. The small hospital located in Bobo Dialasso, Burkina Faso is called Hospital Kamkaso, meaning Pleasure Hospital, and has 17 rooms but it is a great start. While the restorative surgery in the U.S. costs approximately $1700, at Hospital Kamkaso in Burkina Faso, it only costs $300.