The Pain

By Doreen Nzeyimana

Halima Abdi is my name, a Somalian aged 14, living in Kakuma Refugee Camp. 2010 my friends and I were doing fifth grade when one of my then close friends asked if I had been circumcized. I met the question with shock as to the best of my knowledge I knew this process to have been done on boys.

The shock on her face when I confidently answered that I had in fact not been circumcized or rather never been circumsized ! Back in class, I wasn’t at peace anymore. So many questions were running through my mind. I longed for class to end so that I could go home and ask my mother about this. To be honest I was very hesitant and anxious to have such a conversation with my mother. Dear reader, you might be puzzled by why asking my mother a simple “why am I not circumcized question” brought so much hesitation and fear. Well in our culture talks on sexuality and sexual matters are a taboo, somehow we are expected to figure this out on our own!

The next day at school, I called one of my friend Hamdi out of anxiety and curiosity and asked her if she had been circumcized. She confidently answered, “yes I am.” She then told me, “I hope you are too.” I told her that was not. She was shocked and looked at me in dismay. She then told me that I am unclean and not worthy to even talk to her. She then left and went to a group of Somali girls and whispered to them. They all turned and looked at me then laughed. I went to join them and they all stood up and left me standing there by myself. From that moment all the friends I thought I had didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I had not realized how much misery this issue would suddenly bring in my life.

I faced a lot of discrimination and stigmatization in school and even in the community. I had to face my mother and ask her about it. I was ready to go through the process just to avoid the discrimination I was facing. At this point all that mattered to me was fitting in. She told me that she was protecting from the pain and some long term effects. She also told me that she was forced to go through it and it really affected her. From psychological trauma to a fractured pelvis my mother sobbed as she explained to me that she had gone through it all. By not telling me about it, she was protecting me.

My mother had to convince me to fight the discrimination and accept myself the way I am so that I do not have to go through the same pain she went through. The real struggle was within myself now, it was to convince myself that in a community full of ‘norms’, I had to be different. I had to say no to female genital mutilation. I had to find myself without bring circumsized. I had to be bold and endure all the humiliation and discrimination just to preserve my dignity.

Whatever the case was, I was going to protect myself from THE PAIN.

24 November, 2022