Empowerment path, Body mapping and the dialogue between Tanzania and Italy

During the event on the 11th of July, a colorful group of women took part at the Reflection circle at the Casa delle Donne in Milan. The chairs were set into a circle and Sarah – AFNET member against FGM/C - and Stella – Casa delle Donne – started the real process of the empowerment.

The first questions they were asked to answer was: what time did you realize you are a woman? What makes you a woman? We had a whole range of different answers, but the question that opened the doors to the empowerment was the one that follows. Who does your body belong to? To my husband? My mother? My children? God? Or to myself? If your body belongs to someone else, how much control do I have on it?

In the afternoon we had the Body mapping session. The aim was to inform the women of the consequences that the FGM/C has on the body. Starting with a body mapping, the women had to draw the sensitive parts of the female body and reproductive system. Later Sarah explained the parts and the functioning of the female reproductive system and asked questions to the women. This process resulted very interesting, since many of them were hesitant at the beginning. When it came to drawing the sensitive parts of the female body and reproductive system, they didn’t only draw the genital area but they gave attention to the head, i.e. the thoughts, the awareness; and the hands and other sensitive parts. That means the woman as a whole.

Even though the problem of FGM/C has not been solved and it is still present, the women who participated to the Empowerment path and to the Body mapping found themselves in a position where they wanted to express themselves and speak their mind. They were willing to ask questions in order to know more. They had space for confrontation with other women.

At 5.00 pm we had the presentation of the project AFTER during the open event “Dall’Africa all’Europa: Combattere le mutilazioni genitali femminili. Tanzania e Italia si confrontano e dialogano sulle attività di prevenzione e contrasto alle MGF”, with the testimony of the Tanzanian delegates – Scholastica Haule, Sarah Mwaga and Rahel Mbalai. Many questions were asked from the audience, e.g. the role of the school, the purpose of FGM/C, the existence of a symbolic practice and quantify the phenomenon.

The education and information of the consequences of the practice are essential, event tough only who saw it first-hand can really comprehend. Using the words of an African proverb:

Who runs faster? The one who saw the lion roar? Or the one who heard the lion roar?”

Of course, the one who saw the lion roar. We cannot always see FGM/C, but we need to know that still 200 million women and girls are subjected to the practice worldwide, with approximately 3.3 million girls at risk each year. The aim of the AFTER Project is to mobilise migrant women and girls to become empowered and, as a result, to reject the practice.