Midwifery Today—International Midwife
was just about to witness a young girl
have her genitals cut o
at the handof her mother. Intentionally. With a
e government o
cial, whoshould have prevented it from happening,
smiled his semi-toothless smile at me, from
e chief respected the traditional
law of no men allowed inside the ring of mud huts during the ceremony. He had norespect for the crime against Kenyan law that was about to take place, or the gross violation of basic human rights—a violentact against a helpless child.
e razor blade reﬂected the rays of the rising sun.
All around were smiles and hushed
e main focus for
most of the people standing in and aroundthe
was to get it over with, but not
out of sympathy for 14-year-old Mary, who
stood shivering as the sun made its way
above the horizon.
ey simply couldn’t wait for it to be party time.And my role in all of this? I was theguest of honor.
I had read all I could related to femalegenital mutilation and I was on my second
trip to Kenya to ﬁnd out more about the
5000-year-old tradition. Somewherealong the way, I gained the trust of a
community of Maasai, living life as they had done for generations, at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Human rights activist and
photographer Justo Casal opened the
doors for me and we had visited severaltimes over the course of some months. Ihad even brought along my 10- and 15- year-old sons. We tied bonds of friendship and, as aresult, we were welcomed as family.
eMaasai community opened their homes,
inviting us to sleep with them around
the ﬁres in their huts made of mud andcow dung.
e last time we went, we arrived a
few days before 14-year-old Mary was tobe circumcised. I stayed with her family
by Linda May Kallestein
during the last hectic days of preparations
before the event.Her 18-year-old sister, Rita, adopted
me as an older sister. She was my guide
into understanding the surreal situation.
Rita was talkative, getting on with herdaily chores and including me in them.
Making food, rounding up the cows and
milking them. She explained to me how to
make chiabata, a bread-like pancake friedon the open ﬁre inside the dark hut. Shetaught me how to milk the cows by usinggourds that functioned as a type of milk
carton. She even dressed me as a tradi-
tional Maasai and showed me where to go
to the bathroom in the bush where there were no trees to hide behind and how tobrush my teeth with a stick. At night shecovered me with a thin scarf and crawledclose to me, to keep me warm as the ﬁredied down. She tried earnestly to be thebridge between me and what was goingon around me.Mary, of course, was the real focus of
attention. All the preparations were in her
ey were performed according to
age-old tradition. Mary went through the
motions of doing the chores that were
expected of her, but she seemed not to
be mentally present. I could not reach
her, despite my constant trying.
“She has a lot on her mind,” Rita
explained and nodded toward Mary. Sheknew that what awaited her in a few days
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