This horrifying ordeal is the norm for millions of young girls. It shouldn’t be.

Imagine. You’re nine years old.

Your grandmother calls you over when suddenly two women, one of them your own aunt, pin you to the ground. You undergo “the cut” – the practice of female circumcision where most of your external female genitalia is removed.

You scream in pain, with no understanding of what has happened to you.

“You scream in pain, with no understanding of what has happened to you.”

The horror of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a reality for millions of young girls across the globe. 

Among those is  Nkatha*, a 16-year-old year-old from Kenya who had her genitals cut when she was only nine years old. 

“My grandmother called me outside and began talking to me. I just remember being very terrified and wishing I could run away, but it was very dark. Then later two women, one of them was my aunt, held me down,” Nkatha told Plan International.

“The room was dimly lit. The next thing I felt was a very sharp pain. I attempted to cry but my aunt told me not to cry. A few minutes later, it was all done. I was in a lot of pain. I was then carried and put to bed and my aunt stayed with me in the house.”

female genital mutilation
The devastating experience is common for girls in Nkatha’s hometown. (Photo: PLAN International)

This experience is common for girls in Nkatha’s hometown, Tharaka Nithi. Despite the practice being outlawed in Kenya in 2011, the rite of passage continues in many communities across East Africa.

And as Nyaka’s story makes clear, cultural pressure often compels mothers to force their daughters into the practice — even after having undergone the painful procedure themselves.


“At the age of fourteen, I began to understand exactly what had happened to me and that is when I questioned my grandmother why she did that to me and why my mother allowed it to happen,” Nkatha explained.

“Mother said she remained silent as she did not want to be labelled a rebel and a traitor for going against the accepted norm.”

A traditional female circumciser in a remote village in Kenya’s Tharaka Programme Unit. (Photo: Plan International)

Member of Parliament from Mali, Fomba Fatimata Niambali, wrote in a blog for Plan International that 85 per cent of women aged 15-49 had undergone FGM, and 84 per cent for girls between 0-14.

In Africa, more than three million girls are at risk for FGM annually, the World Health Organisation reports.

And even with continued efforts to stop this violation, the United Nations predicts that 86 million girls will have undergone FGM by the year 2030.

Share this: Female genital mutilation is NOT ok.

female genital mutilation
The damage of this barbaric practice doesn’t stop at the cutting. (Photo: PLAN International)

While many girls are taught to accept FGM as a normal part of growing up, Nkatha considers what she suffered a violation.

“No one asked if I wanted to be cut or not, they just did it because it was right to them. I am bitter because I do not know where they took that part of my body and because my rights were violated and there is nothing I can do to change the past.”

The damage of this barbaric practice doesn’t stop at the cutting or resulting psychological damage, either.

Infections, chronic pain and myriad complications can arise after the operation, further endangering the lives of these young women. Consequences also extend to education, as many girls who have undergone their rite of passage into womanhood drop out of school to fulfil the more womanly duties at home.

Related conent: Female genital mutilation will change their lives forever.

Hopefully, with continued effort from the world, we can work towards stopping this horrific, traumatic and life-threatening practice.

Plan International has begun the ‘‘Building Skills for Girls for Life’ project’ – an effort to educate women, men, girls and boys about the dangers of FGM.

Community elders in the Tharaka Nithi region are also spreading this anti-FGM agenda, with these respected pillars in the community forwarding on the message that FGM is not okay.

“We are in a different era and should move with the changing times. Instead of subjecting girls to FGM we should instead subject them to books,” comments Josephat Migwi, a Nchuri Ncheke elder.

Today marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. The UN based day hopes to spread awareness about FGM and move towards eradicating the practice. 

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

Founded 77 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world. We work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.