FGM... Agonies of Agatha (2)
Find Part 1 here
Mama Augusta returned last Saturday, but I have still not visited. Although my curiosity over the last few weeks since I first heard had not died, a part of me wondered if her choice for Agatha was any of my business. So, since she returned, I have struggled with two traits… my innate curious trait and my self-taught trait to mind my own business.
But today, she came knocking … she said she came to greet me… that Papa Augusta had told her I visited. I invited her in and offered her water… and as she sat, telling me how well her journey had gone, I felt my innate curiosity slowly but surely winning.
So, I decided to get my answers, hoping that my curiosity is not the kind that killed the cat.
I asked how Agatha was doing and if all went well in the Village. She said she is well, that although she is in a little pain, it will heal up soon. She told me her journey had not been an easy one… that the roads have become worse and the transport fare Papa Augusta borrowed still remained unpaid. She said only for her children, would a mother go on such a long and tiring journey.
I looked at her closely, wondering what kind of a mother she is. I know Mama Augusta loves her children and perhaps this was a matter of love too… for she spoke of her journey like one embarked on as part of a mother’s sacrifice.
Then I asked why the journey was so important. She said Agatha needed to be circumcised and because the white man’s education had made it hard to do in the town… she had to go to her Village. So, I asked that she tells me more about the process and why it was so important for Agatha to go through it.
Mama Augusta laughed… she said,
“Aunty, why are you asking all these questions, did your grandmother not circumcise you?”
I smiled and told her I just wanted to know…that no one had ever explained it to me clearly.
She looked at me with pity and smiled…the kind of smile that can only mean 'I know something you don’t know'…and then she explained.
“You see, in our village, we have always circumcised our children, both boys, and girls, and even when the white man’s education claimed that it was bad for our girls, we were not deceived… how can something that was done for even our mothers suddenly be so bad.”
Then I asked her what was so good about it… she said it protects the daughters from being defiled until they are given away in marriage, and even after they marry, they never cheat on their husband.
“I am circumcised, you see, and because of it, only my husband has ever beheld my naked body, I have no great desire for sex, so I do not even think about other men”
She told me that it is also believed to protect women from losing their babies at birth…but it is not a common belief. She said she was told that if the head of the newborn touches the mother’s clitoris, the baby will die.
I could not hide my shock…so I asked if she believes all these. I asked if she was simply undefiled because her parents had raised her well and she chose to live right. Mama Augusta disagreed… she said it was because she was circumcised… that her old neighbour had refused to circumcise her daughter, and because of that, she was defiled early and had a baby at 15.
She said her daughters would not be like that… so she ensured they are all circumcised early enough. She said a mother must protect her children.
I had no answer to that, so I asked about the other belief… and if she believed a mother’s clitoris had anything to do with a child’s death at birth. She said she had never heard of one… but she would rather be safe than sorry.
At that moment, as I looked at Mama Augusta … I saw a woman whose only interest is to protect her children, and I saw in her eyes the strong resolve to hold firmly an age long belief… one that is so strong and unshakeable.
I wondered how to break through to her… I wondered how I would explain to her the many dangers of circumcising her girls… and the pains and the difficult married life that awaits them… I wondered how my ‘white man’ evidence will compete with her age-long traditional beliefs… one that has been passed down many generations.
How do I educate a mother who lives in the new age… yet so set in the ways of the old?
Do I tell her to stop because her daughters would never enjoy their marriage bed? Do I tell her of the risks of using unhygienic blades to cut them?
Do I tell her of the other stages of circumcision… the ones that cause difficulty with monthly flow… the ones that make child birth harder for women.
How do I convince her that only her boys really need to be circumcised and that her daughters were born with nothing that needs to be removed or tied?
How do I convince her to simply raise her daughters well and trust them to choose their own path?
What do I say to the mother who was herself circumcised by her mother… and now circumcises her own daughters?