Leila* is not bilakoro. In other words, she is not looked down upon in her community in Mali for being an ‘immature woman’. This is because, culturally, where she lives, she has been considered a mature woman ever since she went through female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). It’s a practice that is considered by many people in Leila’s community as noble and something that protects women against promiscuity. As a result of these beliefs, many women oppose any actions aimed at eradicating the practice.
In fact, until Leila attended a session with our local partner aimed at helping women to understand the damage that FGM/C does on both a personal and a societal level, Leila had been taught to accept that the practice was the right thing to do.
But FGM/C, in real terms, is not a rite of passage to maturity, but a dangerous, and sometimes fatal, practice that can cause severe bleeding and infections. It can also have lifelong consequences such as infertility, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of newborn deaths.