Movie Time, Popcorn Anyone?

Image result for desert flower in pics
Waris Dirie, Desert Flower film

It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen and when you finally see females in movies; you think that they have these metallic structures around them, like they are caged by male energy. A certain movie, produced in 2011 really gave me such an emotional response; it became part of my emotional make-up, in a way. Desert Flower tells an amazing story with an undeniable message in an ambiance with scenes that look like those of a different kind of movie. The effect is rather unsettling in understanding the life of Waris Dirie. The film starts off by focusing on a young girl who began life as a member of a nomadic tribe in Somalia. Waris was circumcised as a young girl, according to the custom of many African countries. An old woman cut away those parts that could someday allow her to feel sexual pleasure and stitched shut her labia- so that her husband (damn, wasn’t he an old bag) could be ascertained that his wife was a virgin when he made the grand opening.

Have you ever thought that watching films is watching someone else’s vision? Well not in this case. Many young girls actually die during or due to this damage. Despite been linked to infections, infertility and childbirth complications, it is still practiced extensively in parts of Africa and the Middle East, even though it is not mentioned in The Bible, Koran or any other holy book. Think about it, and how it subjugates our women, how it turns them into commodities and denying them the full lives they deserve as human beings, as citizens.

Young Waris gives you an idea about the thirst for a better life, education and even opportunities when she left her “husband’s” place, and walks across the desert to seek her grandmother who stays in Mogadishu. She finds her, and is later on hired as a house-help in London. Waris, now a grown woman, is played by another model, Liya Kebede, (now that is beauty, my Miss World), runs away again to later live with Marylin, a lady she befriends along the scenes. She gets a job in a restaurant and finally her breakthrough arrives in the form of a fashion photographer who helps her get to the top ranks of modeling, not without any obscurity of course. Towards the end of the film, she condemns genital mutilation before the United Nations, after having some complications and undergoing an operation, and actually becoming their ambassador against the barbaric practice.

Despite a decades-old movement against it, the rates in some countries haven’t budged, and funny enough, there is a misconception, that it is forced on women by men. From my classes, and reading on the topic, elderly women do most of the work in carrying on the custom. I actually thought communities would let it go after learning about its negative impacts, but those who practice just think that the benefits outweigh the consequences (I really feel like going all Kevin Hart on them). I really don’t get it with their thoughts on the benefits, but they actually exist in some cultures. The Rendille, for example, are sexually active before they are married, and this is culturally acceptable. However, when the woman lives with her husband’s family, it is considered as part of inclusion among other women who are identified as circumcised women. So yes, it is part of being introduced into such a female network that holds the importance. Do you also know that some people believe that all male and female bodies contain male and female parts? For the men, the foreskin is a female part (ever looked in the mirror? Haha) and for the ladies, the covering of the clitoris is a male part (so not fair). The whole idea of “becoming one” includes cutting off these parts.

Most girls do not have a right to decide for themselves. It is not an individual behavior. Mothers are not solely in charge of the decisions regarding their daughter’s life, but people in the extended family are. This implies that in addressing the issue, targeting the mothers is ineffective. There is need to target those people in the extended family and the influences on them in the community. In addition, both female and male elders should be included. Addressing this issue entails conversing about the way to secure the future of our girls, which might not be best protected by being circumcised any more.

“Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls- fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it”

 

Waris Dirie

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Becoming A Girl: Part 1

Let us take for instance that *Sally (obviously not her real name) wakes up to find out that she cannot see anymore. Her father insists that he cannot waste money educating a disabled girl. Sally is therefore trapped, nothing to do, no one to go to. Or *Martha, one among many young girls in Sub-Sahara Africa who lacks sanitary towels during ‘that time” of the month due to several barriers her family faces, which leads to her getting ‘help’ from older men, and three years later, realizes she is HIV positive. Dreams smashed to smithereens. They do have dreams: to become doctors or engineers, but how will you find out if we keep on denying them a chance to exploit their potential and desires? One door closes and the other one fails to open (don’t know what the landlord did to it, do you?)

SHE could be your sister you know. Or your friend, or neighbor. You see her once in a while in the streets or the village. SHE is the single mom who has no access to the necessary resources she requires to tend to her family. SHE is Africa’s princess who spends most of her time walking for clean water as a replacement for gaining an education. Not forgetting SHE is that girlfriend held captive in the form of an immigrant worker. SHE has been left OUT. OUT of her family. OUT of education. OUT of interested positions. OUT of economic endeavors.

Because she is a girl, she is forced to get married at an early age, have babies before her body is ready and have more children than she can handle. Nearly half of girls in Ethiopia get married before they are 18, in Kenya, the age goes down to 13 in some cases. Worldwide, 10 million children a year are forced into marriage. Additionally, this sets in motion several negative impacts on the girls:

  1. Emotional Damage

Marrying a girl aged 13 is like feasting on a 1 month old chicken (I’m sure it’s not that good nor will it be appreciated by our taste buds). The education completion rates for such girls drastically drops as duties in the house take up their time. Without an education, such girls are the poorest on the planet, with no control over their lives. No chance to become better than their mothers and lead the way for their sisters and friends; to show the world that girls make the community stronger and richer.

  1. Early pregnancies and their Consequences

Girls married at an early age have a duty to bear children to carry on the family name. Some give birth without complications while others are more likely to face health risks. In the adolescent years, a girl is still growing. Pregnancy increases nutritional needs of the body and can slow down this growth. If a girl’s pelvis has not reached full size at birth, then chances are that she will be subjected to obstructed labor. A devastating complication of obstructed labor is obstetric fistula, an opening between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. This means that she will constantly leak wastes like urine and get ostracized by her family and community.

A young girl, married and with a baby often has less chance of finding employment, and if she cannot complete her education, poverty and poor health will render her unable to cope. The young mother and wife, with little or no education will not only be unable to contribute to the development of the nation, but she and her family may become a burden to it.

Give her a chance, and she will take it to a better level

“No one benefits if women are held back. We have to change mind sets, not just laws.”

President Paul Kagame

A Journey It Is

So this is my first blog post. Lots of thoughts in my head: what to write, express and let out ( keep in mind I started with an idea somewhere in my head). So much to point out and have people understand what it means to be a woman, an African woman, and denied what is rightfully yours. To live in an era where our leaders advocate for our rights as citizens, but little is done. Focus is put on other aspects of the country in relation to economic development, leaving behind this issue of considering women and their role in the development of nations. It is a great deal to many: an issue soft as a feather but hard as a rock. So, what is our take as enlightened people?