Last week, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation launched the column, An Exclusive. We received many positive comments on social media in support of this column. Thank you for your support. This week, we introduce Ms. Francess Cole, author, activists and public speaker. Francess delivers a riveting Exclusive that makes your hair rise.
GWPF: You are a dynamic public speaker against the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Tell us how you began speaking against the practice.
Francess Cole: I began speaking against the practice of female genital mutilation after the release of my autobiography ‘Distant Sunrise – The Strength in her Pain to forgive.’ I realized a huge number of women and girls were suffering in fear and silence (just like I was) and decided to use my personal story of survival to motivate and encourage them.
GWPF: We know that you are originally from Sierra Leone. How do you feel about that country having a high FGM practice rate?
Francess Cole: To be honest, I was shocked to learn that more than 80 percent of girls and women in and from Sierra Leone have undergone female genital mutilation. It is quite disturbing to know that mothers who were subjected to forceful mutilation themselves could put their daughters through unnecessary agony. Could it be they’re not aware of the dangers of this practice? Or because they were brainwashed into believing that a woman without a clitoris makes a better wife; so making sure their daughters are fit for marriage, they pass on this lie – from one generation to the next. Until parents, community leaders, and the cutters are educated about the dangers of FGM, Sierra Leone and all practicing countries will continue to violate the rights of the girl child.
GWPF: A couple of years ago, the United Nations said that Sierra Leone and Liberia will be two difficult countries to end FGM because of the Sande society. Do you ever see Sierra Leone outlawing FGM?
Francess Cole: I strongly believe the fight to #end FGM will be won in all practicing countries. Yes, Sierra Leone seems like a tougher country to get on board because self-appointed “soweis” are backed by governmental leaders. If we (anti-FGM activists) continue with our fight, suggest positive and beneficial alternatives to FGM, talk with parents and elected officials about the dangers of FGM, Sierra Leone will outlaw the practice of FGM. It may take time but it will happen.
GWPF: So as a survivor of FGM, how have you coped with post-FGM/C years?
Francess Cole: My post-FGM years have not been easy especially mentally. Even though I speak at events, rallies, and have made guest appearances at various radio shows, I still have not overcome the psychological effects of FGM. Whenever I read an article on FGM I go into PTSD mode. I often find myself thinking about the darkest day of my life (August 1st 1984) and wished someone had rescued me as my clitoris was being amputated. Because I was only eleven years of age, I can’t speak on sex before FGM but I can tell you that post-FGM sex is not the way God intended it to be…
GWPF: How do you feel when some Sierra Leonean women endorse the practice of FGM?
Francess Cole: Disappointed! Livid!
GWPF: Tell us about your organization, “Life After FGM”.
Francess Cole: LifeAfter FGM is a platform for survivors of FGM and other forms of sexual violence to share their exceptional stories of “life after” with the world. LifeAfter FGM is built on three principles: Support, Love, and Sisterhood, it and was founded on Nehemiah 8:10 in the Bible. We encourage survivors especially of FGM to get involved in the fight to #endFGM. We have survivors in most communities who are either afraid to speak up or have a nonchalant attitude towards protecting the girl child. “No one came to my rescue, so why should I fight to protect any child from undergoing FGM?” is the mentality of most; so we at LifeAfter FGM help point them in the direction of certified counselors who will help with the healing process (emotionally) and help them see the love in protecting the girl child from sexual harm.
GWPF: You have written a book. Tell us about the book, and how we can obtain copies.
Francess Cole: Distant Sunrise – The Strength in her pain to forgive is my autobiography and readers can find helpful tools to overcoming tragedies such as: female genital mutilation, rape, unforgiveness, abortion, prostitution, etc. Distant Sunrise exposes the demonic side of the Sande Society (FGM) and points those in need of deliverance to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Interested parties can get copies of my book from Amazon.com.
GWPF: What do you want people reading this Exclusive to do about joining the campaign against FGM?
Francess Cole: I’m a firm believer in the power to choose. We can’t force anyone to join the fight to #endFGM nor can we make someone see the need to protect the girl child from abuse. If you’ve walked down the dusty and rugged roads of pain and torture and defeated demons on your way to recovery, no one should tell nor ask you to do something to save the girl child from forceful genital mutilation. Be the HELP you wished you had when you were surrounded by women; some of whom held you down to the ground as you had your clitoris forcefully amputated. Non-Profit organizations like Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation and other grassroots organizations need volunteers. Do a thorough research and ask for ways you can help.
GWPF: As you are aware, not enough people in the U.S. are informed about FGM. What suggestions do you have for the American public regarding this practice?
Francess Cole: The United States of America believes female genital mutilation is a cultural and religious practice and therefore is hesitant to get involved. (See my quote below on FGM not being either of these)… When America gets educated on the number of female children born on its soil who are at risk daily of forced genital mutilation, I believe they’ll change their views. There are medical practitioners (in the gynecological field) who have no idea what FGM is and how to cater to patients who’ve gone through this ordeal and on their way to recovery. Most of us (survivors of FGM) have experienced humiliation at the hands of these unlearned and untrained doctors and some of us have even been used as specimens. Doctors need to be trained on FGM (not just what it is) but on how it affects its victims and how they should be treated. America can learn a lot from the UK on ways to protect the girl child from forceful genital mutilation. Make FGM part of the curriculum in schools and train teachers on signs to look for that suggests a child is at risk or have had their genitals tampered with. Let’s talk about FGM. FGM should no longer be viewed as “their thing.” It is time elected officials and media outlets work together with anti-FGM organizations and activists to send a powerful message to the world that the lives of women and children are more important than any “cultural or traditional” practice. Education is vital in the fight to #end FGM.
GWPF: If you had only one wish, what would it be?
Francess Cole: I wish for a world in which every child will be allowed to live a life of freedom, joy, peace, and love. I want to see a world free from the practice of female genital mutilation, sexploitation, and all other forms of violence against women and children.
GWPF: In conclusion, do you have anything else to add?
Francess Cole: “FGM is not an African thing. It is not a cultural thing nor is it a religious thing. FGM is now happening on European and American soils so IT is now everybody’s thing.” ~ F.A. Cole. I send out a mighty ‘Thank You’ to the women [and some men] who are tirelessly fighting to see that FGM ends in a generation. This fight cannot be won by one individual so I beseech survivors to work together for the well-being of the girl child; because whether you’re with or against us, this is a fight we will WIN – someday.
Thank you for taking the time to read An Exclusive. We hope you have enjoyed the preceding “Exclusive”. If you would like to see us profile someone of your choice in An Exclusive, please send the person’s name to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming Up in Next Week’s Edition: We will introduce you to another phenomenal woman. She is Clitoraid, Inc.’s Head of Operations, Nadine Gary. Make sure to meet her in next week’s Exclusive!