A Poem for Women Who’ve Suffered Female Genital Mutilation
Below is a beautifully written poem by Dahabo Ali Muse, a Somali poet and survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). If you’ve ever wondered, as I have, what life is like for a woman who’s undergone this procedure, this poem speaks of the pain suffered by young girls when the procedure is performed, on wedding nights when proof of their virginity is required, and of the horrendous pain they go through during childbirth, even as they find joy in being able to conceive at all.
This poem was read to a hundred of our Sisters last month at the Center, and as they listened to Dahabo Ali Muse’s words, so eloquently revealing, they shed tears together. Tears in remembrance of the pain they felt when their bodies were carved up, of the loss of pain-free, physical love shared with their husbands, and tears in fear of their own death during childbirth. This pain is referred to as a “Somali Woman’s Three Sorrows”.
Sister Somalia is committed to permanently wiping the tears of this sorrow away through education and, when needed, medical attention.
Please, read the poem below through the filter of your own life experiences of girlhood, womanhood, and motherhood and imagine how differently they would have been for you if you’d gone through them while experiencing the intense pain caused by female genital mutilation.
And if I may speak of my wedding night:
I had expected caresses, sweet kiss, hugging and love.
Awaiting me was pain, suffering and sadness.
I lay in my wedding bed, groaning like a wounded
Animal, a victim of feminine pain.
At dawn, ridicule awaited me.
My mother announced:
Yes she is a virgin.
When fear gets hold of me,
When anger seizes my body,
When hate becomes my companion,
Then I get feminine advice, because it is only feminine pain,
And I am told feminine pain perishes like all feminine things.
The journey continues, or the struggle continue,
As modern historians say.
As the good tie of marriage matures.
As I submit and sorrow subsides.
My belly becomes like a balloon
A glimpse of happiness shows,
A hope, a new baby, a new life!
But a new life endangers my life,
A baby’s birth is death and destruction on me!
It is what my grandmother called the three feminine sorrows.
She said the day of circumcision, the wedding night and the births of a baby are the triple feminine sorrows.
As the birth bursts, I cry for help, when the battered flesh tears.
No mercy, push! They say.
It is only feminine pain!
And now I appeal:
I appeal for love lost, for dreams broken,
For the right to live as a whole human being.
I appeal to all peace loving people to protect, to support
And give a hand to innocent little girls, who do no harm,
Obedient to their parents and elders, all they know is only smiles.
Initiate them to the world of love,
Not to the world of feminine sorrow!
-Dahabo Ali Muse