Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. According to medical documentation, various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancers. Cervical cancer can usually be cured, if it is caught and treated in the early stages.
The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the organ where a fetus grows). The cervix leads from the uterus to the vagina, which is the birth canal. Long-lasting infections with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) account for almost all cases of cervical cancer. Having a pap test to check for abnormal cells in the cervix or a test to check for HPV can find cells that may become cervical cancer. These cells can be treated before cancer forms.
Although studies continue to be conducted, medical research studies show that there very well could be a correlation between cervical cancer and female genital mutilation. Some medical personnel report that it is difficult to perform pat tests on women who have undergone the infibulation type (cutting & stitching) of FGM. Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death for middle-aged women in developing countries, yet the disease is almost completely preventable if precancerous lesions are identified and treated in a timely manner. And not being able to have pap tests done on them could put the survivors of FGM at high risk of developing cancer of the cervix.
One hundred and fifty women between the ages of 25 and 50 were invited to participate in a cervical cancer screening project in Africa, and 100 women attended the screening clinic, which is a response rate of about sixty-seven percent. About half of the women that participated in the screening were around the age of 35. Thirty-six percent of the women had no education and only thirty-three percent of them were employed. As high as sixty-four percent of the participating women had undergone female genital mutilation. Sixty percent had given birth more than once, while sixty-two percent had had incisions between the anus and vulva during childbirth; twelve percent of the women appeared to have had lacerations in that area.
The result of the study shows that episiotomy, cervical laceration, and genital mutilation are considered major types of iatrogenic trauma. The study found that trauma to the cervix is a risk factor for cervical cancer, and points to the importance of safe delivery facilities. It was strongly noted that the abandonment of female genital mutilation can have a great effect in decreasing the chances of cervical cancer in women in developing countries.
This column of “Did You Know…” is intended to help inform and educate our readers on the practice of FGM. Last week, we reviewed the heroines of Somalia against the practice of female genital mutilation from that country. This week, we will take a look at the West African Republic of Liberia, and to what extent FGM is practiced there.
With forty-three thousand square miles of coastal land, and a population of two million, Liberia is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and the Atlantic Ocean. Although Liberia has had a woman leader for longer than two decades, this country remains unmoved by the world’s pleas to outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). It is the opinion of some Liberians that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is “soft” on the excisors of FGM.
According to statistics released more than a decade ago, Liberia’s FGM practicing rate was at twenty-six percent; in recent years that percentage has increased to almost eighty-six percent. These figures are alarming since they demonstrate that the practice of FGM continues to increase in Liberia.
The most widespread practice of FGM in Liberia is carried out by the Sande Society, a deeply rooted secret society in that country. The Sande Bush, more commonly referred to as the Grebo Bush teaches the role of a wife, farming, sexual matters, dancing, music and basket-making to the girls. The training period lasts for six months to three years, depending on the ethnic group. But training is not the only thing of which the girls undergo in the Sande Bush. Clitoridectomy and labiadectomy are the key performance by female excisors, referred to as Zoes in the Sande Bush. A Liberian man once remarked, “Female Genital Mutilation and the Sande society go hand in hand. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of this time-tested tradition in Liberia. Asking the Zoes to abandon this age-old tradition is like telling someone to stop eating his or her favourite meal. As long the Zoes live the Sande will continue to influence the role of women in Liberia.” Where then, does that leave the future of little Liberian girls?
We are only 5 weeks away from the second annual Walk to End FGM. We continue to remind you to register for the walk. We will assemble at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW on October 31st. The excitement is building so join in on the fun!
- Register as a walker
- Register as a survivor
- Form a team and invite others to join your team
- Join a team that has already been formed
- Register as a volunteer
- Make a donation (if you are unable to attend)
- Sponsor a team or an individual walker (contact us for sponsorship packages)
- Purchase a Sponsor Display Table (contact us for details)
Visit www.globalwomanpeacefoundation.org and make your choice from the options above. We look forward to seeing you there! All proceeds from the walk-a-thon will benefit the Global Woman Center, which helps FGM survivors have proper OB-GYN healthcare, including restorative surgery. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. As such, your contributions are tax deductible to the maximum extent required by law.
We need your signature to meet our goal. To sign the petition, please click the link below and watch the video:
Sign Our Petition
If you have questions or comments about the campaign prior to signing the petition, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in becoming an ambassador for GWPF, send us an email with your brief bio to email@example.com or call us with questions 703.818.3787.
As part of GWPF’s campaign to educate the American public on the practice of FGM, the organization believes that having a representative in each state is a key factor in helping to raise awareness throughout the U.S.
The requirements to being an ambassador for GWPF are as follows:
- Have basic general knowledge of the practice of female genital mutilation
- Be able to speak to an audience about the practice
- Be able to represent GWPF at an “End FGM Social” in your state
- Come up with new ideas to raise awareness about the practice of FGM in your state
- Help promote GWPF’s programs in your state
- Already have a connection with a university in your state or can establish a connection
- You do not have to be a survivor or at-risk girl to be an ambassador
In Virginia, we are located at 901 South Highland Street, Suite 319, Arlington, Virginia 22204 and in Washington DC we are at 3920 Alton Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20016. The hours of operation at the Arlington location are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 10:00am until 3:00pm