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Reading: Sierra Leonean Woman Shares Harrowing Tale of Escaping Forced Female Genital Mutilation
Reading: Sierra Leonean Woman Shares Harrowing Tale of Escaping Forced Female Genital Mutilation

Sierra Leonean Woman Shares Harrowing Tale of Escaping Forced Female Genital Mutilation

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Beresford Benjamin
By Beresford Benjamin 8 Min Read
8 Min Read

Tryphina Elizabeth Coker, a Sierra Leonean woman, has come forward to narrate the ordeal she and her husband, Gibrill Papa Tee Bangura, faced when confronted with the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in their home country.

Elizabeth recalling her journey, said, “I left my country on the 13th of February 2022.”

The story begins with the tragic death of two of Tryphina’s sisters, leaving another mentally unstable and with no one to care for her children. These deaths were a consequence of FGM, a practice they were pressured into.

According to Elizabeth, the pressure to perform FGM began after the passing of Tryphina’s father, who was against the practice. In 2018, Tryphina and several other girls were captured and taken to an initiation forest, miles away from their town. Remarkably, they managed to escape with the help of an older girl and returned to town. Tryphina then decided to flee to another district and pursued admission into a university in 2018.

The second attempt took place in 2020 when Tryphina went to attend a relative’s funeral. Her mother persuaded her that they were merely attending the funeral, but they were captured during the night by family members and taken to the same forest but a different location. Some of the girls managed to escape once more, taking refuge in nearby villages before returning to the town after approximately 20 days.

Once back in town, Tryphina reached out to her boyfriend, who is now her husband, and shared her situation. He communicated with his family, who approached Tryphina’s family to seek her hand in marriage. However, Tryphina’s family imposed a condition – they would only agree to the marriage if FGM was performed on Tryphina before she started bearing children. Despite reservations, her husband’s family accepted this condition to relieve her from the family’s pressure.

After their marriage in 2021, her husband’s family contributed funds to facilitate her travel to join him. However, Tryphina’s family learned about her departure and pregnancy without FGM, leading them to summon her, her husband, and her mother-in-law to a custom and tradition court. According to her family, Tryphina’s mother-in-law allowed her to travel without adhering to the initial agreement, which they considered a breach of contract. As a result, her mother-in-law has been stripped of all customary rights until Tryphina and her husband face the full consequences of their actions.

Tryphina shed light on the dangerous realities of FGM, explaining that while promises of becoming a better wife and mother were made to initiates, the actual experience in the secret bush often led to severe consequences. Many initiates suffered from injuries, infections, difficulties during childbirth, and even death. Those who survived the process warned others against it, fearing the potential harm.

Despite widespread opposition to FGM, the practice is deeply ingrained and backed by beliefs in black magic, making it challenging for individuals or even the government to intervene. If someone dies during the process, it is often dismissed as a natural death by authorities, adding to the urgency of addressing this deeply rooted issue.

Elizabeth recalling her journey, said, “I left my country on the 13th of February 2022.”

The story begins with the tragic death of two of Tryphina’s sisters, leaving another mentally unstable and with no one to care for her children. These deaths were a consequence of FGM, a practice they were pressured into.

According to Elizabeth, the pressure to perform FGM began after the passing of Tryphina’s father, who was against the practice. In 2018, Tryphina and several other girls were captured and taken to an initiation forest, miles away from their town. Remarkably, they managed to escape with the help of an older girl and returned to town. Tryphina then decided to flee to another district and pursued admission into a university in 2018.

The second attempt took place in 2020 when Tryphina went to attend a relative’s funeral. Her mother persuaded her that they were merely attending the funeral, but they were captured during the night by family members and taken to the same forest but a different location. Some of the girls managed to escape once more, taking refuge in nearby villages before returning to the town after approximately 20 days.

Once back in town, Tryphina reached out to her boyfriend, who is now her husband, and shared her situation. He communicated with his family, who approached Tryphina’s family to seek her hand in marriage. However, Tryphina’s family imposed a condition – they would only agree to the marriage if FGM was performed on Tryphina before she started bearing children. Despite reservations, her husband’s family accepted this condition to relieve her from the family’s pressure.

After their marriage in 2021, her husband’s family contributed funds to facilitate her travel to join him. However, Tryphina’s family learned about her departure and pregnancy without FGM, leading them to summon her, her husband, and her mother-in-law to a custom and tradition court. According to her family, Tryphina’s mother-in-law allowed her to travel without adhering to the initial agreement, which they considered a breach of contract. As a result, her mother-in-law has been stripped of all customary rights until Tryphina and her husband face the full consequences of their actions.

Tryphina shed light on the dangerous realities of FGM, explaining that while promises of becoming a better wife and mother were made to initiates, the actual experience in the secret bush often led to severe consequences. Many initiates suffered from injuries, infections, difficulties during childbirth, and even death. Those who survived the process warned others against it, fearing the potential harm.

Despite widespread opposition to FGM, the practice is deeply ingrained and backed by beliefs in black magic, making it challenging for individuals or even the government to intervene. If someone dies during the process, it is often dismissed as a natural death by authorities, adding to the urgency of addressing this deeply rooted issue.

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