Djenabu Sano works with UNFPA across 20 communities to to speak out about the dangers of female genital mutilation. She suffered a haemorrhage in all four of her childbirths due to having been subject to the harmful practice when she was younger. © Aleke Ogbada Junior/UNFPA Guinea-Bissau
BURUNTUMA, Guinea-Bissau – “In all four of my deliveries I had a haemorrhage” said 39-year-old Djenabu Sano, reflecting on the consequences of female genital mutilation on the births of her children.
“I don’t want what I’ve been through to happen to other women and girls. This made me reflect on the need to sensitize others and save lives.”
In Buruntuma, in Guinea-Bissau’s far eastern region of Gabu, Ms. Sano is leading her community’s efforts to abolish female genital mutilation. Gabu has one of the highest rates in the country – some 96 per cent of the female population have been subjected to it – so Ms. Sano talks with neighbours and religious and traditional leaders to raise awareness of the dangers of the practice.
“I try to understand people’s perceptions, while also highlighting the harmful consequences it had on my own life,” she explained to UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
Female genital mutilation involves injuring or removing female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Perpetuated by and rooted in biased gender norms, it can lead to serious health complications including severe infection, chronic pain, depression, infertility, and death. It is internationally recognized as a human rights violation.
Although criminalized in Guinea-Bissau since 2018, it continues to be practised in many communities, mainly for cultural and religious reasons often rooted in the lower status of women and girls, such as the idea that their bodies need to be “fixed” to be marriageable.