Hana’s FGM Survivors Story: unfulfilled Love, Lost Dreams & a Daughter’s Protection

Its My Story

By Hana Gibremedhen - Hana is FGM Community Media Champion

I was born and brought up in Ethiopia before moving to the UK. At the age of 8, I was forced to go through FGM in Ethiopia. I will never forget that day which has continued to impact on my life and is now affecting my only daughter.

Aged 8, I was made to sit on a wooden mortar with my legs apart outside our compound. I felt a sharp pain on my genitals as the circumciser cut off my clitoris. I cannot remember how long the operation took but the excruciating pain made the operation seem as if it took forever. The open wound was often rubbed with herbs whose stinging effect made the pain and shock effect unbearable for weeks on end. My greatest fear was the thought of going to the toilet as the pangs of pain hurt every part of my body.

No Sex! Painful Delivery

What I did not know was that this was the beginning of a lifetime of suffering and unfulfilled dreams. My first sexual encounter was so painful, and it still traumatises me thinking of sex and engaging with a man. Upon marriage, it was difficult to engage with my husband and I often suffered in silence. This led to lots of stress, with emotional and mental stress.

When I finally got pregnant, I had a very difficult pregnancy with many complications. My labour pain went on for 4 days and 4 nights. I had to be cut so that the baby could come out. The memories of it are horrible! After giving birth, my womb couldn’t go back to the right position and when I walked, I could sometimes feel like there was a baby coming out again. I had to stay indoors for a very long period of time until I felt a bit normal again. I am terrified of getting pregnant again just in case I go through the same experience.

Fear for my daughter

Many reports show that FGM is still happening and as a mother of a young beautiful daughter, I am always concerned about the prospects of her getting cut. I know my family said they are no longer practicing FGM but I am still nervous. When I went to Ethiopia last, I was extremely uncomfortable leaving my daughter alone, especially - not even with my family. I am ever so scared that they might persuade her to undergo the operation behind my back. I am haunted at the prospects of her undergoing FGM and do all I can to protect her, starting with informing her about the problems with FGM and why she should NEVER have it done.

Support for survivors

FGM survivors go through so many complications and problems in their day to day lives, in addition to the normal life’s troubles experienced by many women. That is why we are working together in raising awareness and getting more survivors together to help one another. Forming a survivor’s network is important in empowering each other by sharing knowledge on how to deal with complications arising from FGM. Having an FGM steering group in Nottingham and networking with one another locally and beyond is helping us to support one another and protect our girls and those at risk of FGM. We want to be engaged in the fight against FGM as we understand it. We are working on establishing a survivors club in Nottingham where survivors can feel comfortable sharing their experiences in a safe environment and offer support to each other.

Personal commitment

I am committed to protecting my daughter from FGM and I am keen on using my experience to protect other girls, support survivors and increase FGM awareness. I was cut, but my daughter will never be cut! I live for her!

This is an edited version of the story Hana Gibremedhen shared during the FGM conference.