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Ending female genital mutilation or cutting through prayer and action

Warning: contains mentions of sexual and gender-based violence that some readers may find upsetting.

Written by Rachael Adams and Sabine Nkusi | 04 Feb 2022

Image credit: Tom Price-Ecce Opus/Tearfund

An estimated 200 million women and girls aged 15-49 live with the consequences of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). Behind this chilling statistic are females whose lives have been forever changed – many of whom now suffer long-term injuries. Tearfund is committed to ending FGM/C – and we would love you to join us.

In this prayer guide you will find how you can pray for survivors of FGM/C, as well as for the work that’s being done across West Africa to bring an end this harmful practice. This guide can be used individually or in groups. There are five prayer topics, which you can split up into your schedule to suit you, or you may want to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in what topic to pray for.

We hope you find the guide helpful and we thank you for standing with us and those we serve.

What is female genital mutilation or cutting?

FGM/C involves the cutting or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The often-traditional practice has zero health benefits for girls and women.

As well as being a traumatic experience for women and girls, FGM/C can also cause life-threatening and long-term health problems – including severe bleeding, infections, infertility, and complications in childbirth.

FGM/C is mostly carried out on young girls up to the age of 15.

Tearfund works with local churches and partners across West Africa to help end FGM/C. We also support survivors and advocate at local and national government levels to create change.

These are the latest updates from our work on this issue – and how you can be praying.

Section one: praying for survivors of FGM/C – stories from the frontline in Chad

‘My aunt forced me to undergo excision [FGM/C],’ says Luiza*, who is just 13 years old. ‘I have experienced suffering and I am still haunted by fear.’

Luiza’s story is common among survivors – family and community pressures are the main drivers of this practice.

Amira* tried fleeing to prevent being cut, but her parents found her and brought her back. ‘They in turn stripped me completely and threw me among other naked girls to wait for our turn,’ she shares with us.

Amira managed to escape – running six miles to a local church pastor’s home. She now lives with other girls who have escaped FGM/C at Beth Elphia – the house of hope – run by Tearfund’s local parnters, SERBAD.

Although she is safe now, she cannot go back. ‘My daddy disowned me and doesn't want to see me at their house anymore,’ explains Amira.

Other girls in the home are scared their parents will track them down at the home and force them to go through the cutting.

Zahra*, who fled with her younger sister, shared this prayer request with us: ‘Pray a lot for us because we are always worried… Do not forget us in your prayers until total victory. Thank you and God bless you.’

How to pray:

Read through the stories of Luiza, Amira and Zahra and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in praying for them and other survivors of FGM/C based on their testimonies.

Other helpful things to pray for include:

  • asking God to protect girls at risk of FGM/C.
  • praying for healing for survivors of FGM/C – physical healing over complications they have suffered as well as peace and comfort for any trauma and stigma they live with.
  • asking God to change the hearts and minds of their families and other community members on FGM/C so that relationships can be restored and healed and so that other girls do not have to go through this.
  • praying for justice for survivors, as well as strength and courage for them to be able to speak their truth and live their lives free from condemnation and stigma.

SERBAD, one of Tearfund’s local partners in Chad, runs a Beth Elphia, a house of hope for girls who have fled from FGM/C. Here they can recover and rebuild their lives | Image Credit: SERBAD

Section two: praying for Mali

In Mali, Tearfund has set up a specific project to help support survivors. We have been working with 15 women since 2018, who in turn now lead various peer support groups for others.

These survivors are now legally registered as an association to be able to speak out on FGM/C, as well as providing awareness-raising training in local communities to help end the practice.

With Tearfund’s support, they have now established a centre where they produce peanut butter; selling it to support themselves and other survivors. This centre also serves as a safe meeting place for conversations around FGM/C and child marriage.

How to pray:

  • Ask God to bless these women and the work they are doing to help so many vulnerable women and girls in the community. Pray for financial resources to develop the centre further, so that even more people can be helped.
  • Praise God that the survivors have had their group legally recognised as an association. This was a huge answer to prayer as it enables them to do more advocacy work at a local level as well being called upon to provide training and input into issues concerning women and girls in their area.
  • Mali does not yet have a law outlawing FGM/C. Pray that the government of Mali will bring in a law to ban the practice of FGM/C.

Tearfund has trained women to run peer support groups to help survivors of FGM/C. Support groups like these can help women to recover and process their trauma | Credit: Jim Loring/Tearfund

Section three: praying for Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, we have integrated our work on FGM/C into our current work helping support women living with HIV.

In this project, volunteers – called mother buddies – support expectant mothers through their pregnancies, helping to access vital medical appointments, HIV testing and providing emotional support pre- and post-birth.

The mother buddies are all trained to talk about FGM/C so they can help change the hearts and minds of expectant mothers and their families on this subject. This means that if they have a daughter, she is less likely to be subject to FGM/C.

How to pray:

  • Lift up the mother buddies in their work as they support expectant mothers. Pray for God’s wisdom in their interactions and that hearts and minds will be changed.
  • Thank God for opportunities to integrate our work on FGM/C so that we offer even more support to those in need.

A support session in Sierra Leone pre-coronavirus pandemic. By raising awareness about FGM/C through our support for expectant mothers, we are able to help reduce this harmful practice while helping women pre- and post birth | Credit: Sabine Nkusi

Section four: praying for Chad

FGM/C in Chad has been considerably reduced for the time being because of our awareness raising – in person through community leaders and in places of worship, as well as via radio – and the combined actions of the administrative and judicial authorities cracking down on the crime.

One key example of this was in Sahr, a district in the south, in August 2020 at the height of coronavirus. Our local partners, SERBAD, saw a record number of 3,000 girls being subjected to FGM/C in the space of just three weeks.

Tearfund, along with SERBAD and a group of survivors, mobilised the local authority and leaders to speak out against this. In addition, Tearfund immediately sent a letter to the Minister of Women's Affairs in Chad, which resulted in local government authorities visiting the site where the practice was taking place.

‘Their presence on the site to raise awareness on the issue deterred many, and led to a decrease in the practice,’ says Seid Zebe, who was overseeing Tearfund’s work in Chad at the time.

How to pray:

  • Thank God for how different local actors came together to enforce the law on FGM/C. Pray for continual good relationships between Tearfund, our local partners, community leaders and the government.
  • Lift up women and girls across Chad and West Africa who became even more vulnerable due to FGM/C due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ask God to protect them.

One of the ways that Tearfund and our local partners have been able to raise awareness about the harms of FGM/C is via local radio | Credit: Layton Thompson/Tearfund

Section five: praying about the future

Progress is being made – an end to FGM/C is possible.

Tearfund's sexual and gender-based violence team continues to look at how Tearfund can best support local partners and churches around the world to end FGM/C. Our work in West Africa is part of this vital work.

As we move forwards, please continue praying for our teams and our work.

How to pray:

  • Pray for wisdom, discernment and boldness for the team as they plan and work with colleagues, local partners and churches to help end FGM/C.
  • Lift up local churches and pray that even more will advocate for women and girls and speak up about this issue.
  • Pray for governments, police forces and the justice systems to be able to effectively tackle this crime.

*Names changed to protect identities

Written by

Written by  Rachael Adams and Sabine Nkusi

Sabine is the Head of Tearfund's sexual and gender-based violence team

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