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learning from little ethiopia

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one of my favorite places to eat for the last couple years has been in Little Ethiopia here in LA. my favorite restaurant is Nyala, where they have an amazing vegetarian/vegan combination platter with a variety of lentils, cabbage and collard greens which you eat with your hands using the Injera (a sourdough pancake type bread) and scooping up the flavorful goodness…my mother attempted to see through her Injera.

in doing some quick web research on Ethiopia it kept turning up blurbs about FGM, which brings us to a very different subject than lovely ethnic food, and that is the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation. i’d been aware of FGM before, and have always thought of it as a horrific, unfair and barbaric process, but i’d never read about it in depth, and i was totally floored by what i discovered.

FGM is still performed in Ethiopia and all over Africa as well as other Muslim nations. the procedures vary, but include the mutilation of young girl’s vaginas by cutting off their clitoris and labia resulting in hoards of health problems, infections, and physical and emotional pain. here is a diagram of the three different mutilations that are performed. some of the justifications given for these autrocities are:

  1. custom and tradition
  2. religion; in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement
  3. preservation of virginity/chastity
  4. social acceptance, especially for marriage
  5. hygiene and cleanliness
  6. increasing sexual pleasure for the male
  7. family honour
  8. a sense of belonging to the group and conversely the fear of social exclusion
  9. enhancing fertility

an estimated “100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide and each year, a further 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of the practice in Africa alone.” these procedures are performed on these girls without any pain killers. the images on google of little girls undergoing FGM were so heart wrenching i went on a search to find a charity that works to end FGM and educate these cultures that this tradition should not be perpetuated. i found one in the UK called Forward, but if anyone knows one in the US or one that you know more about, please comment and let me know. i feel strongly about women’s issues, which is why i donate a portion of the sales of my screw you necklace to charities that aid women and girls. i think it is so important that we all maintain a global awareness about our planet and people.

“Mama tied a blindfold over my eyes. The next thing I felt my flesh was being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The pain between my legs was so intense I wished I would die.”

Waris Dirie, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and spokesperson on FGM.

further reading and sources:

http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/key-issues/fgm

http://socyberty.com/issues/female-genital-mutilation-1-history/

http://www.socialedge.org/blogs/from-tribeca-to-tanzania/archive/2007/05/15/female-circumcision/

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