The following is an interview with Fadumo Korn, chairwoman of the association Nala e.V., an interpreter in Munich, Germany and author of the brave book entitled “Geboren im großen Regen” (Born in the big rain). As a victim of FGM, she described her experience as the absolutely worst thing you can do to a woman, female circumcision (FGM). Fadumo now struggles against this horrifying crime and I would like to thank her so much for her answers in the following interview and wish all the very best in her struggle against FGM. For ProMosaik the struggle against FGM is a struggle involving the whole of society throughout the world. The braveness of women like Fadumo who out speak about it and describe the agonies so clearly can help end FGM.
Milena Rampoldi: You have personally experienced FGM. How did you manage the step towards speaking about it and struggling against FGM?
Fadumo Korn: It took me more than 35 years to understand that only the involvement of people like myself can do something about FGM. Therefore, in January 1999, first, I decided to go public and show that we are not imaginary, but real women who do not have their clitoris any more but who are ready to struggle for the rest whether they do or not. With my own story and my own destiny, in Germany I have gained a lot of attention. Even with a child enrolled in school; fortunately my husband stood by me and repeatedly encouraged me to keep fighting.
MR: Which are the worst FGM consequences for women?
Fadumo Korn: The pain when we get our menstruation, is an unimaginable pain. It is like a wild animal rummaging in my lower abdomen. In addition, there is the pain during urination and sexual intercourse. However, the worst of all is while giving birth when the sewed vagina splits and the baby’s head carries away everything in its path; when unable hold your urine, you cannot feel anything during intimacy with your husband; and when girls bleed to death during circumcision and die.
Some women become infertile by their injuries and are unable to have any children. Then they have a double destiny. Something which should make women beautiful and pure, instead makes them “outsiders”, because women without children are worthless in Somalia.
MR: Why must we promote discussion about FGM in Europe?
Fadumo Korn: Since Europeans have not yet understood that FGM is not just an African matter and or problem. The tradition has spread throughout the world including Europe through migration.
MR: The struggle against FGM is an important one for Islamic feminism. Why do so few people oppose it?
Fadumo Korn: Basically, Muslims are not capable of doing so because the subject is not openly discussed by Muslims who avoid speaking about sexual matters whether or not in public. Islamic feminism should have a better opportunity to openly and publicly speak about this matter within the religious community. Furthermore, this depends on the fact that FGM does not only exist in Muslim countries, but is also practiced in countries without Islamic traditions.
MR: How can we mobilise the masses in countries where FGM is still part of daily life and end this tradition?
Fadumo Korn: We have to convince Muslims to unleash an indignant storm of protest against FGM. We have to tell them that human beings have audaciously dared to change Allah’s perfect creation. And this is a great sin. Human beings are marvellous. In Quran 95:4 it says: “Indeed, We have created the human being upon the best of forms.” However, is the man so great that he thinks Allah has committed a mistake when He created him? Exactly this is what human beings do when they practice FGM. Human beings elevate themselves over Allah and think they could improve on Allah’s unique creation.
MR: Please tell us about your book.
Fadumo Korn: The following is an extract from my book:
Until my 8th birthday, I did not know any permanent home. As a happy little nomadic girl I went through Somalia with my family and our cattle looking for places where there was pasture enough for the animals. It was not always a fun life, no, sometimes it was even hard because we walked for days. Since I have been four, I had to care of a whole flock of sheep alone. And I was a strong-willed and stubborn child. Once as I discovered a nice cloth in a bazaar, and it was not bought to me, I just piped down so long until I fainted. After that my father bought me the cloth. However, when I got to seven years old, all changed…
The Great Day of a Somalian Nomadic Girl
Finally, the great day had come. I could hardly wait for it because today – at last – I would become a woman. As promised, early in the morning I had already got a wonderful cloth, a mirror and marvellous sandals. A beautiful cloth like this you should not get dirty, so I did not tied it around, but clamped it under my arm folded, and proudly followed the other girls on the path leaving the village. On the way, my knees were shaking out of excitement. Then, when I saw the old, heavily flexed woman coming to the camp under the great acacia tree, suddenly I became afraid. I saw her spreading out a cloth and putting on it a bag with ashes, a can with sticky paste, some acacia thorns and a half razor blade. My mother pointed to the place in front of her. I should sit down there and then I heard her saying: “Be a good girl, do not shame me, and do not scream!”
Then it all happened very quickly. My aunt and my mother held me and in my head an untold pain – a pain I can still clearly feel after more than 30 years. This pain has only one advantage, that you faint. After the first step, I was unable to respond, did not feel anything of what was done, cut, and sewed. However, when I woke up my legs from the ankles to the hips were strongly wrapped around. I should not move so that the wound could heal. All was hurtful, and only then the real torture began.
Just a hole not bigger than the head of a needle should remain so that urine and blood can flow off. But to me, not even that remained and so the day after, the procedure was repeated to reopen a part of the suture. Probably this way the wound inflamed. For weeks, I had high fever, and the wound suppurated. And while I was struggling against death – my mother even bought me a shroud.
However, I did not die. But I could not jump around as I did before, I could not help my family anymore, and what was worse, I could not follow them through the desert anymore. They sent me to my uncle who had a house in Mogadishu and there the other part of my life began. For the first time, I saw cars, and listened to the radio. Later, I also got the chance to go to school. Notwithstanding, I did never heal completely. In addition, I got rheuma, probably the consequence of the horrifying infection. And when the physicians in Mogadishu did not know what to do else, my uncle first sent me to Italy, and after that to Germany.
Since 1979, I have been living in Munich – the third part of my life. However, I still have health problems, which are a clear result of the genital cutting. Thanks to physicians in Somalia and Europe today I am able to live a happy family life with my husband and my son. To my mother I have forgiven since long ago, she just wanted the best for me and could not resist the community’s pressure. However, I have not forgiven the circumciser even until now who was so old, shaking, almost blind, and who should have not been authorised to do her job at all.
Finally, I would like to tell you how the book began. The book began when I was in trouble. In 2003, my husband Walter broke his neck and risked becoming handicapped. Since I was so afraid to lose my mind, I started to write the book. Of course, I did not even think of the success it would have.