Stories of Gender Based Violence in The Gambia Part 2 EPISODE 5


The Story of Majula

She is a victim of FGM/C. Her grandmother Mba Satang is a Ngansimba, a big Practitioner. She took her at 3 years old. Since then she experienced hardship. There are 3 types of operation; first the simple type is Cleodectomy which is still very painful because a healthy organ is being operated on, excision and infibulation which is the harshest of the three, also referred to sealing.

Excision and Sealing were practised on young Majula. It was a secret to her mom. She only knows about the Cleodectomy and even there she does not mind. Moreover, she has no say in it while both parents are in for it. To them their young girl was being purified. She was born into an ethnic group who were a proud custodian of the tradition.

Majula is now a beautiful grown up adolescent. She experiences painful menstruation which was never attributed to the operation. From her narration:
“We were told beautiful stories about FGM/C; that we will be sanctified, beautiful and clean; we will be chaste; we will be good wives to our husbands and good mothers to our children.

We went into the bush with great anticipation. We were 20 girls of different ages. I was an only child of my mother and a pet child at that. My mom bought me 10 different types of dresses of expensive material with matching shoes and ornaments just to make me happy and contented. I wore ‘urusi ngalam’ (mingaleh) – expensive jewelry.

The circumcision house was a big parlour divided into sections owned by Ngansimba. We had older teenage girls who looked after us. My mom will bribe them to offer me special favours.

My little cousin, Mbatang died in the ‘Mbar’. She was afflicted by septicemia. We heard the bad news from a ‘selbe’, an elder girl. We were very afraid of witches. Before the end of the process three more girls died of septicemia, but the explanation again is witches and wizards had attacked the girls. My mom bought me a lot of talisman to put on my wrists and ankles. At night charcoal grounded into powder is put on my forehead and my face. Ifangbondi will come out every night to protect us. This was psychological protection for us and we felt a sense of security.

I was among the young ones to get healed quickly. In fact I was the second youngest. The toddler was 2 years. She was with her mom to make her stay and feel secure. She was a nurse. The tradition is loved and revered. There were some educated people who believe in FGM/C. But thanks to the work of the Activists the Culture of Silence is breaking some Practitioners are dropping the Knife.

My mom is a great Horticulturist. She acquired a big garden from her Grand-mother through her ‘osusu’ organized by their women kafo.  She raised money and bought garden tools and the extension workers helped her apply scientific methods which increased her farm outputs. She supplied markets, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and middle persons.

She sponsored hajj trip for self, dad and my grand-mother consecutively. She built a self-contained house and changed their status. Dad stayed at our family home and married a second wife. They kept their marriage and dad practised ‘aye’ between his wives. My mom is an independent woman kind hearted and has sponsored a score of girls who have reached the sky which was the limit. My mother educated me up university level. I studied nursing and have my BSc. in Nursing and Midwifery.

I was lucky that my mom is a ‘diriyankey’ ‘trail blazer’ she believed in education and ensured I was educated to the zenith.

The day we got out of the ‘Mbar’,
 I can never forget it. Mom ensured I received the best treatment. She was heard saying: ‘She is my only child, I’ll ‘mirass’ myself.’ She slaughtered two bulls and made all sorts of entertainment. Children were enticed. Class competition showed its ugly face again and those who did not have the means were obliged to borrow or bear the stress.
One woman who lived in our home Mba Wonto almost divorced her husband. She did not have the means to prepare her daughter. She insulted her husband:
‘Sarja you are hard hearted, what can you do for your daughter? Are you not going to slaughter even a cock for her?’

Pa Sarja
“I am retrenched, what can I do? I have nothing.”

Mba Wonto
“Why did I marry a pauper? My parents warned me? Even women are slaughtering bulls for their daughters, look at me.”

Pa Sarja
“Do you want me to steal? I borrowed money and bought meat for the ‘Ngansingbondo’. That is what I can do and I done it.”
Has FGM/C broken this family or not.
Read to find out.               

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