“I saw the knife and knew” – one girl recalls her circumcision

As a carefree six-year-old, Kady went to visit her grandmother, expecting a weekend of sweets and treats. She left with blood dripping from her wounds after a bungled circumcision carried out in a dirty toilet.

Kady is now 18 but looks no more than 13. The roughly handled genital cutting she suffered as a child seemed to stunt her growth and stopped her periods.

It is therefore no surprise that she is now firmly behind Burkina Faso’s drive to wipe out the practice, known as female genital mutilation (FGM).

Speaking to IRIN at her home in the capital, Ouagadougou, she recalled the day when she made the 40-km journey to her grandmother’s village of Sapone.

“They asked us to go round [to her grandmother] for sweets and eggs. When we arrived, three women caught me, bundled me into the toilet, pinned me down and undressed me,” Kady explained.

“I saw the knife and knew what was going to happen. I cried out, but I couldn’t find the words to speak.”


FGM often takes place in unsanitised surroundings and with rudimentary instruments, such as knives and glass. At least in some communities, the use of new razor blades is on the increase.
Credit: IRIN

The lips of her vagina were cut and then stitched together, leaving just a small hole to allow urine and menstrual blood to escape. Then the old women made Kady jump over a fire, telling her it was part of the cure to ease the pain.

After two days, the pain had gone, but the psychological scars were still raw.

“I wouldn’t wash in front of the other kids – they laughed and teased me because I looked different down there,” she said.

Things got worse a few years later. The hole closed up completely and Kady’s medical problems began.

“Everyone got their periods and I didn’t. I wasn’t growing – all my friends towered above me. I spent the whole time feeling sad.”

It was only after her father died in 2000 that anyone thought of getting medical help for Kady. Her aunt took her to several doctors and two years ago she had an operation to repair the damage.

“Now I’m like everybody else,” she says, her face breaking into a wide smile. “I’ve even grown a bit, and the doctors say I should continue to do so.”

Kady hasn’t seen her grandmother since her circumcision but, if she ever bumped into her, she knows what she would say.

“I’d tell her not to do this to any more girls. It’s so dangerous, and can cause so many problems afterwards. I’d say, ‘Please grandmother, just don’t’.”