Friday, 30 September 2016

Mother... a Poem

Art by IKI

Does my whiteness
prejudice my worth to this continent
where I first breathed
and the sound cuddled  my tiny ear
like the blink of a soft jacaranda petal?
Does my forced exile
compromised the sense of belonging
to this land of lost fathers
whom I buried in grief too early -
though is never the right time for farewells?
I elected my space according to
emotion not geography
feeling not citizenship
intellect not borders.
I thought myself as an illegal seed
carried in a borrowed womb
for mysterious reasons that elude
the logic of the mind.
Elephants migrate spreading seeds in foreign lands
the wind blows above the soil
carrying a bunch of tiny gems
feeding new horizons,
why couldn’t I have had the same journey?
A seed launched out of circumstances…
It comes a time you got to kill your mother
to find your own belongings
shrug off the virginity of a safe place
embed in a different landscape:
love  doesn’t have to coincide with blood
there’s a natural sentiment that comes along
ignoring given bonds.

I have two mothers:
my biological mother looks like me,
pale and strong bodied,
my other mother is brown like the soil
with a golden shade between her eyebrows
her name is Sera.
Mama Sera
it was the time when History didn’t match with justice
and segregation fell lives apart
dividing people by
it was the time when History kidnapped people lives
and threw them in a cell underneath,
Jo’ burg was burning behind the walls built
to secure the wardens’ lives;
waving their phallus they pleased their ego
entering the unlocked doors of the dreamer’s sleep.
But you were there, Mama Sera
you were there everyday
from Alexandra township walking your body
like  the gentle flame of a candle
on the shores of every day’s aspirations
to clean the sense of unease
that history has weaved on this patch of land
so fertile of life ‘n love.
No one, a part from myself,
knows how secretly
I dreamt of an equal dialogue
between my two mothers.
I longed for a love that would not be defeated by roles,
a love that could be one and inseparable
but life has chosen for me 
Mama Sera
to be you my spiritual mother.


That’s how Mama Sera
became my second mother.
She did not feed my stomach
she fed my imagination.
She did not carry me in her arms
she showed me the direction for the day
I could be strong enough to walk on my own.
She did not wash my face out of the sleep
she gave me a cup filled of water
and sang me the song of the rivers that travel all their way
to wash the surface of the mighty ocean
from losses and oblivion.
She didn’t lace my shoes
instead stood by my side encouraging me to do it myself
regardless to my tears of shame.
She did not bring me gifts for Christmas
she let me sit on her lap and tell me stories
where the hero wasn’t a beard old man sliding on the snow
but a child who walked three miles to fetch water and who
along the road met the ghost of his grand father
who saluted him playing the sacred drum.
She did not push me to my dreams with Cinderella’s league,
she encouraged the ancestor’s to bring me stories from the of old times.
She didn’t wish me  happy birthday,
but taught me the reasons why we should be celebrating our life every day,
in struggle and peace -
celebration is a luxury of the losers – she said.
She didn’t fill my schoolbag with milk for the day
but taught me responsibility for the things I care.


I ‘ve spent afternoons staring at the cupboard
where you kept some of your belongings
clothes, old magazines and the box of perfumes
you received your first day of work,
someone assumed you needed to have one
and on the fundaments of this assumption
all of a sudden, I embarked on a different ship.
I started secretly, intimately, sailing on a different sea
driven by a sense of unease
which attempted to pollute my love for you.
That’s how you became my second mother.
I’ve spent bunches of time thinking weather
I should just open the door and throw those perfumes away
cause the idea that made them to be there was wrong.
For this I loved you more
and you became my second mother.
I’ve spent all my lunches sitting by your side,
close to the kitchen’s window where the stove stood
generous of steamy pots
I ate from your hand sweet pap dipped in hot chilly
      - gravy,
the food you were asked to prepare for me
wasn’t appealing to my taste.
I did an effort eating two meals
but I did, because I wanted that privilege
to remain still in maternal complicity with you
and for this I loved you more
and you became my second mother.
I played with my brother Tumelo.
When I was sick you brought him home
to fill my loneliness
playing kudoda and laughing and crying.
empathy acts in mysterious ways.


Time has delivered an answer to the life I embraced
and I’m back
I came to look for your face
Mama Sera.
To mirror my wonder in your eyes
to caress your skillful hands.
I came back to listen more songs
and stories.
I came back to see my brothers and sisters
who grew in the secrecy of my room
fearless and curious.
I came back to sit at the same table eating together
the dreamt food of my childhood
remembering the two of us sitting by the stove
eating pap from the pot
while the food on the table
was getting cold and tasteless.
I came back to tell you
I managed to break the chains of my exile
that I came back to stay
that I had encountered the fear of loss
that I faced the judgment of the ignorant.

Strengthened my bones I chose
hardship out of hypocrisy and mediocrity.
I came to tell you that I’m your child,
never lost,
just suspended in a limbo
waiting to bring you something
you could be proud of
but you had already gone.
I wanted to be sure I existed in your life
as well as you existed in mine -
                          -  memory needs a double check.
I came back and drew your face on the red soil
outside in the field where we used to walk side by side
moving my first steps toward life.
I drew a big face with the golden shade between the eye browses,
it was the sun that marked your skin
                                  – you said in delight
so that you could enlighten your children’s journey
towards freedom
in those arrogant days where freedom wasn’t available
I’m one of your children and I found my path
towards the destination you aimed for us.
Barefoot in countless sunny days you taught me
to feel before thinking
to think before judging
to chase hate out of my life
to trust myself
when I cannot trust others.

You’re now my memory
I’ll dig in the earth and deposit my seed
deep inside
I’ll send it to the future
so that your grand children
will harvest love and gratitude.
Like a tree I will stand waiting for the birds
to rest on my branches and feed my lelhala.
Hours, days and weeks will shift in other rooms of time
While nostalgia will nourish your absence.

From my last short poetry collection OUT
Kabiliana Press 2016
Work Art by Iki

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Walking Race. A radio drama about gender equality and politics in modern Kenya.

Even though more and more Africans have access to internet through the phone, Radio is by far the dominant mass medium in Africa. Within the continent, Kenya has a huge number of community radio stations that are enabling isolated communities across the country to voice their own concerns. On air, ordinary citizens discuss issues that are central to them and this makes community radios an important platform to empower people  through information.
Mtaani Radio (99,9 FM) is one of the newest independent community based Radio in Nairobi located in Kivuli Centre, Kabiria serving Dagoretti Community. The intent of the radio is to build bridges with its listeners and empower the community to celebrate diversity and participate in its development.
Among its programs, there is attention on social issues like: Child’s rights education, Women empowerment, Youth empowerment, Health.

With Patrick Kisarenge
One of the newest programs is The Walking Race, a radio drama written, directed and produced by Patrick Kisarenge Modi. The Walking Race is a 12 episode’s drama that addresses the community on a number of themes related to politics and gender inequality in anticipation of next year’s Kenyan National Political elections.  We want to sensitize the community on the leadership of womeneducate and empower women to achieve a career, educate men to trust women says Patrick - women should not anymore be seen only as care takers but also as empowered leaders capable to run for important posts in any field.
Each episode of the radio drama goes on air twice a week, Sunday at 7 p.m in English and Monday at 9.00 p.m.  in Kiswahili with the title Safari Ndefu.

What happens if in modern Kenya a woman is willing to start a career in politics? In Kenya there’s still this strong imbalance between men and women. even though women represent 50% of the Kenyan popoluation and 60% of the country's registered voters, only 19% of women are parliamentaries. Gender inequality arises within Kenyan families and when a woman intends to start her own business or run for a post in politics - says Patrick -  she often finds obstacles within her family. The desire of economical independence and time out of the family, is often the cause of marriage breaks.

Back in 2012, Patrick started conceiving the idea of a play featuring women and politics before election time: I was inspired by a common saying which says that behind every successful man there’s a woman. I wanted to go further that and asked myself who is behind every successful woman? I initially thought about making the woman protagonist of my play a woman president but there were no role models to be inspired by, so I thought about a woman who is running for a more local post in politics as a MCA (Member of County Assembly).
Four years later, the play has been adapted for the radio and this coming week the second episode will be on air. 

I had the opportunity to assist to the rehearsals and I found very compelling the idea of generations confronting each other discussing about gender roles, questioning an old patriarchal system and coming at peace with the idea that gender equality should be the path towards a more successfull society.  
Another issue touched by The Walking Race is the importance of building an inclusive community by embracing all diversities. Kabiria and Nairobi, on a larger scale, are home to many refugees and immigrants and as part of the society, they should be able to have a voice and a political representation.


(Cedric Mugo, Chege Kamau, Bridgit Aringo and Ann Wachira)

Rehearsal (Cedric Mugo and Ann Wachira)

Rehearsal (Cedric Mugo and Chege Kamau)

The cast was chosen after an audition: The actors are at their first experience in acting and this makes the whole experience extremly important for all of them - explains  Patrick  - also the Radio Drama is all done on a volunteer basisWe didn't find sponsors yet, so we are still looking for them but we are hopeful that some  will show up and help this important project to achieve the best result.

The actors are:

Chege Kamau in the role of David (Kuseti's Dad)
Cedric Mugo in the role of Kuseti (Angela's Husband)
Bridgit Aringo on the role of Mapenzi (David's wife)
Ann Wachira in the role of Angela (Kuseti's wife, MCA aspirant)
Evelyn Kinya in the role of Leha (Women group member)
Jane Mwangi in the role of Susan (Women group secretary)
Nancy Muthee in the role od Mama Njeri (Women group member)
Humphrey Sakawa in the role of Jamo in the role of the thug
Daniel Tsimbego - in the role of Robaa (thug)
Hesborn Gekone in the role of the Kapten (aspiring male MCA)
Michael Barnabe in the role of John (Leah's husband)
A police  - in the role of officer Kip

To know more about Mtaani Radio  and participate, visit

Friday, 2 September 2016



The Cut Voci del cambiamento, è un libro-laboratorio che esplora il complesso tema delle MGF in tutte le sue possibili sfaccettature utilizzando diversi registri linguistici, da quello informativo a quello artistico. L'autrice racconta la sua esperienza di lavoro di artista con donne sopravvissute alle mutilazioni affermando il potere della scrittura come atto di resistenza e di denuncia ma anche come percorso terapeutico verso il superamento del trauma e l’affermazione identitaria. Attraverso le preziose testimonianze e narrazioni di attivisti e artisti incontrati in giro per il mondo, il libro di Valentina Mmaka ha il valore di portare all’attenzione dei lettori l’urgenza su un problema che affligge 200 milioni di donne nel mondo. L’opera ha il merito di essere uno strumento informativo e formativo oltreché un’ispirazione per tutti coloro che desiderano impegnarsi e dare un contributo alla causa e partecipare attivamente alla creazione di un dialogo pubblico sull’argomento dando la possibilità a chi è vittima di queste pratiche, di far sentire la propria voce e segnare il cambiamento delle culture che le sostengono. THE CUT condivide anche il percorso artistico dell’autrice che utilizza l’arte come strumento di resistenza e promozione della giustizia sociale. La seconda metà del volume è quella dedicata al lavoro svolto nell’ambito del collettivo Gugu Women Lab in Sudafrica e a tutti quegli artisti che come lei sono impegnati nella sensibilizzazione sulla tematica

valentinammaka (AT) gmail (DOT) com

*L' autrice è disponibile anche a fare presentazioni via Skype

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Iraq is one of the Middle Eastern countries where FGM is spread mostly because of lack of education and information among women and girls. Researches have already found out that the FGM rate is lower among highly educated families.  
One of the main obastacle to overcome is, first of all,  to make sexuality outspoken, that's why also media don't talk about it. A change in this direction,  will make easier to address ,among other things,  FGM and sexually transmitted deseases.  
In 2010, Wadi published a study on FGM in the Kurdish region of Iraq, which found that 72% of women and girls were circumcised. Two years later, a similar study was conducted in the province of Kirkuk with findings of 38% FGM prevalence giving evidence to the assumption that FGM was not only practiced by the Kurdish population but also existed in central Iraq. According to the research, FGM is most common among Sunni Muslims, but is also practiced by Schi’ites and Kakeys, while Christians and Yezidi don’t seem to practice it in northern Iraq.
In 2013, the  PANA Center presented a draft law on the prevention of FGM in Iraq authored by Falah Moradkhan, Iraq project coordinator of Wadi.
Type I is the most common, especially in the Kurdish area, but in some regions also Type II and III are practiced.  The average age group is 7/12 but also older women. The operation is carried mostly at home by local midwives and doctors. 

I spoke with Dr Maha Al- Sakban who is a Pediatric Consultant at the Hospital of Diwaniya. She is also chair of the Human Rights Advisory  Board of Iraq, member of UN Women SCAG (Civil Society Advisory Group) and Member of NIF (Iraqi Facilitator's Network). Dr. Al-Sakban is committed in raising awareness on FGM in her country through educational workshops targeting youth. 

VALENTINA MMAKA – Dr. Al- Sakban, you are a pediatrician working in South Iraq. Can you tell me when you started doing researches on FGM and why? 
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN -  I often heard about women coming to maternity room for delivery who were cut, especially Africans and Kurdish women, but at that time I did nothing about it. Although it is widely practiced in our regions, it is done in a secret way. Everyone knows about it but never speak of it.

VALENTINA MMAKA - People who support FGM in Iraq refer to religion to justify the practice?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - Yes, even though recently they refer to medical and cosmetic reasons.

VALENTINA MMAKA - You mean that in Iraqi women ask for labiaplasty? I knew in the USA has become very popular influenced by the raise of porn movies' consumption, especially among teenagers. What about Iraq?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - The genital area becomes wider and loose, so men do not enjoy sex with women, women go for vaginal plastic surgery to make their vagina narrow and tight. It is not asked just by wealthy women, I can say sometimes the procedure is asked by men sending their wives to undergo surgery.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Even if FGM comes from an ancient patriarchal system, in majority of the countries in the world is a tradition continued by women who are the custodian of this rite. Is the same in Iraq?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN  - Absolutely.

VALENTINA MMAKA - As a pediatrician  have you encountered many patients with signs of FGM?  Have you ever had the experience of mothers coming to you to say they don’t want their daughters to be cut but they have pressure from their families?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - No, as a pediatrician I did not have many patients with signs of FGM. But I encountered many mothers who did not want their daughters to be cut.

VALENTINA MMAKA - In Iraq there is no law that bans FGM, but are there some pre existing rules that women can use to report against who cut them?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN  - Now there is a law draft to be proposed to ban FGM in Iraq, there is a law in Kurdistan that bans FGM. Yes, there are pre existing rules that women can use to report but are never used.

VALENTINA MMAKA - How is sexuality spoken in Iraq?  And what about FGM? Is there a dialogue about this issue?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN – In Iraq is a taboo  to talk about sexuality and consequently about FGM, that explains why there’s  no dialogue taking place about these issues.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Activists around the world envision education as a tool to empower girls and boys to end FGM. How would that work in Iraq? Could it be possible to train communities, students, social workers, parents, teachers?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN  - In present circumstances it is difficult but not impossible. As human rights activists we did educate youth about sexually transmitted diseases.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Where and who was the target?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN  - We did it in Alqadssiya Provence targeting students in intermediate schools  aged 15- 18 years.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Are there organizations in the country working to tackle FGM and collect data?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN – Yes, many in Kurdistan but very, very few in other parts of Iraq.

VALENTINA MMAKA - FGM is often related to early marriage in many African countries for examples girls drop out of school after they are cut and get married to older men. Is that the case also in Iraq?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - Early marriage is widely practiced in Iraq, but I have no information about its relation with FGM in my country.

VALENTINA MMAKA - In Kurdish Iraq it seems that some communities have dropped FGM, according to you what is the right strategy to adopt in your country to raise awareness among people to abandon FGM?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - We should start with health educational workshops to raise awareness targeting local communities and IDP's (Internally Desplaced Person) from the Northern parts of Iraq, areas invaded by ISIS,  encouraging them to be vocal about their experiences. Also targeting youth of both sexes on sexual education and laws criminalizing violence against women, early marriages.

VALENTINA MMAKA - You mentioned ISIS. There's a narrative circulating about ISIS forcing women to undergo FGM. What do you know about this?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - Yes, it is true. They issued a regulation that every female and male has to get circumcision done (in 2014 many photographs of mass circumcision of males of defferent age groups were published via FB and other social media). Regarding women, it is true as documents were published and also survivors who  escaped, witnessed about it.  ISIS forced  even non Muslims  to do it.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Most women don't acknowledge the fact that FGM is irriversible. As a medical doctor can you confirm that the effects of FGM are irreversible?  
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN – Definitely, are irreversible as much as cosmetic reconstruction remedies or procedures may be done, they can never replace the damage that was done. 

VALENTINA MMAKA - In 2012 WADI created a Hotline to  is it still working?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - Yes, it is working actively, documenting and helping female victims of FGM and also ISIS victims.

VALENTINA MMAKA – When do you expect FGM to end in Iraq?
Dr. MAHA AL-SAKBAN - Not very soon, it will take a long time. We first have to admit its presence and then start to work on the issue.

Thursday, 21 July 2016


Despite the fact that I wasn't able to follow it fully and that I'm not so familiar with twitter, I managed to take part to yesterday's twitter chat on Ending FGM, you can follow up the conversation using these hashtags: #EndFGM #YGAVB. 
Yes, social networks are cool to connect people around the world and share ideas and experiences, though I found a bit limitating the space offered by Twitter. 

In trying to depict what is needed to EndFGM  several issues showed up to be relevant:
- Education
- Working with communities
- Connecting generations at a community level
- The role of Law
- Encouraging the raise of positive narratives to empower women
- The role of Social Networks and Media
- The involvement of Men in anti FGM campaigns
- Training Religious leaders in Islamic cultures
- The role of NGOs
- Encouraging storytelling

Enough stuff to write a book about these issues, which I tried to do writing THE CUT.

Although I uphold all of the above, the things that I feel to reflect on now are:

The role of the Law: I wish every country to have a law which bans FGM and Early Marriage. Though the law itself cannot and will not eradicate FGM. The function of the law is to protect people from harm, to promote common benefits. Now, if a government issues a law to ban a traditional cultural practice, its first duty is to address the issue to all the people. We cannot imagine to prosecute entire communities on the assumption that there is a law, we have the responsibility to let people know why the law was made and why the subject of the law has to be considered a crime or an offense.
So Information  and education are key.
When I recently read, after the conviction of  three indians of the Bohra community the imam, midwife and mother in Australia for cutting two sisters, comments from activists like "We have won", as much as I felt the right thing was done, I see that there's still a gap to fill on a larger level, We cannot imagine that populating prisons with parents, midwives, imams will end FGM. That mother, that midwife, that imam, needed to receive a mandatory training on FGM and serve 3 years as community service training members of their community. In rural areas in Ethiopia, Somalia, Senegal, Kenya local midwives should be trained to change and convert their role as anti FGM activists and instructors. In some countries it happens.
We will really win when will have a four generations of people come together by will and mark the change by saying NO to FGM.  
Note that, being FGM child abuse, so a form of violence, violence is cultural and only a cultural change will eradicate it.

The role of NGOs.
I worked enough in my early twenties in NGOs', big and small, to understand their basic dynamics, how things work.
Yesterday's chat brought up the issue which made me think about what Edna Adan said in a talk, that money should be spent wisely when thinking at strategies to end FGM. We don't need mega international conventions to share our experiences. Technology (more sophisticated than twitter) provides us a bunch of other ways to connect and share. We don't need activists travelling to another continent, sleeping in 4 stars hotels, eating "exotic" foods to feel they have achieved something.
Every country has its own activists, some more than others, and Ngos should sponsor them to work on their territory, in their community. On the other hand, as much as I'm promoting confrontation and dialogue as essential tools to progress and make changes in this case, when the life of girls is at high risk, we should switch to other ways of connecting so that all that money spent in  hotels, flights, restaurants will go to empower girls and boys, elders, communities.  Live exchanges programs should be planned carefully and well targeted.  Also some activists in FGM practicing countries will be able to dedicate full time to this cause if they can have a wage to rely on. Not all are in the position to volounteer and important issues like FGM , needs people who can devote full time to the cause.
As someone said in yesterday's chat, change starts from the ground and I would add from inside.
We should encourage the raise of sustainable grassroot's organizations and possibly with local money. If local sponsors could invest in local activists/programs that would make what I call an organic changing strategy. Which should be more effective.

Many activists in FGM countries lament that they don't have enough  funds and the only ones they can get is from international NGOs. But according to a logic of sustainability we have to keep in mind that international Ngos often belongs to lobbies and have deals with governements in developing countries. No one can run away from statistics, with all the billions of euros, pounds, dollars donated in charity, for example in Africa, to eradicate poverty, lack of water, famine, desease, the whole African continent would have been healed. But things show a different picture. 
So if honest local investors start to invest in their human resources (in this case activists) things might change from the ground. 
I know this won't make me much popular, but is what I think. 

Social Media
Along with other activists I wrote a letter addressed to the media, asking to be more inclusive when it comes to FGM, we need to raise a public dialogue, we need to inform before criminalizing. We need to connect countries, communities, people, experiences.

Positive Narrative/Storytelling
I uphold this. That's also how social media can play a role, creating spaces for new narratives and also positive narratives that can empower people to take a stand and start questioning what is wrong with FGM, where dialogue becomes the center of the changing process. 
About the power of storytelling and more specifically how Art can serve as a tool towards healing to overcome the trauma but also as a tool of empowerement through which strenghten self esteem and identity, I wrote a book:  THE CUT THE POWER OF ART AS RESISTANCE TO BREAK THE SILENCE ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION which pretty much offers a different perspective on how to use Art to address issues like FGM. 

Last but not least, I would love to say a word to all those who work within the frame of this cause, that we should all work jointly together. I know some activists around the world,  in strong patriarchal societies, who work to end FGM often face sexism, rivalry and lack of attention on their work and this simply shouldn't happen. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


While deciding how will the english version of THE CUT look like, I arrived at the conclusion that it should be unique in its genre and more likely a complementary work to others already existing on FGM. 
In the Italian volume which is about 563 pages, there's a lot stuff in it also because in Italy, Italian readers can't rely on many non- anthropological books on this very subject. But English readers can get a wide list of books explaining what is FGM, where, how and who practice it. So, discussing with friends who are publishers, writers, educators, I decided that the English edition of THE CUT will definetly focus on the role of ART as a perfect medium to talk about FGM/C and address social issues but also Art as a healing path to overcome trauma. I feel that my work as an artist/activist will be better in conversation with existing books and works if I focus on the role of Art and what artists can do to engage people to social issues. 
So instead of the 563 pages English readers, might have a reasonable book of about 300 pages, more or less. 
It will be out approximately in december and hopefully will be officially launched next Febraury the 6th maybe also along with the performance.
It has been a long wait, but things not always go they way they show up in the first time. I had to change route and this took me a little bit longer. 
For all the amazing fellow mates I've met and will not be in the English edition, not being artists, I will include them in a new project which is already in progress and is now expanding.
Stay tuned!

Monday, 18 July 2016


Iran is one of the Middle Eastern countries where FGM is practiced in addition to Iraq, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia. 
Researcher and activist Rayehe Mozafarian is one of the important voices, in Iran,  who studies the spread of FGM in the country. She is also an active campaigner to end  Early Marriage .
Mozafarian holds a M.A. in Demography and Development (University of Shiraz, Teheran) and she is the author of Razor and Tradition (Utopia Publisher, Paris 2013), Tigh o Sonnat (Razor and Tradition) (Takht Jamshid Publisher, Iran 2015); The Ring. Early marriage in Iran (Iran 2016). In 2014 she has also published the study Violation of Girl's Rights. Child Marriage and FGM in Iran. 

Mozafarian began with a look at Iranian laws that could be used to fight FGM/C. Iran’s criminal code, for example, calls for punishment of premeditated mutilation that is equal to the crime. The penal code also invokes the Islamic tradition of diyya, or blood money, as a punishment for cutting female genitalia. Activists could also use Iran’s law protecting people with disabilities as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - she said - as FGM survivors end up with a disability.

Rayehe also reviewed the views of religious leaders and others. When Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei was asked about FGM/C, he said that the practice is permissible but not obligatory. On his website, the leader also said that FGM/C doesn’t hurt if done right and that changing social norms could make it unacceptable. For Mozafarian, both claims suggest avenues for action: educating him that the operation is harmful and using his opinion to change social norms.

Other leaders downplay the problem. The head of the Iranian association of social workers, for example, said that prevalence is low, occurring mainly in villages with populations under 2,000. The director of public affairs at a medical school said that the practice takes place in secret and is thus difficult to quantify, but then said that since prevalence is low public, education isn’t needed. But even one girl is too many, said Mozafarian.

Rayehe Mozafarian then described what she called “circumcision” in Iran. Type 1 and 2 are common, and new reports indicate that Arabs in Iran’s southwest practice infibulation. It’s mostly Sunnis who practice FGM/C. Mozafarian’s study of women on the island of Qeshm found that FGM/C prevalence was 83 percent, with 60 percent of women saying they’d like to circumcise their daughters. “They don’t know why they want to continue,” she said. “My people want to continue this operation only because of tradition, tradition and religion.” 
In a study of Iran’s Kurdish area, young women wanted to be circumcised because their in-laws would request it. Other studies have revealed that marital satisfaction and sexual functioning were lower in Iranian couples when the wife has experienced FGM/C.

According to Mozafarian, FGM has been recorded in four provinces of Iran: in Hormozgan, Kurdistan, Lorestan, Kermanshah, West Azerbaijan. In Lorestan and Ilam it was a tradition but it doesn't happen any more. In Hormozgan, Kerman, Fars, Bousher, Sistan, Gorgan and Balouchestan there might be cases but there's lack of research to prove the evidence of it.  In the Gheshm Island on the Persian Gulf, 83% of women have undergone FGM because of gender stereotyping. 

VALENTINA MMAKA -  Rayehe, when did you start campaigning to end FGM in your country?  Did you ever had to overcome obstacles in your activism?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - The first time I knew about Female Genital Mutilation was when my mom gave me a book, Desert Flower by Waris Dirie, which had been translated into Farsi.  The book led me to ask whether FGM occurs in Iran, where I was born and live.
I started searching in Google but found only two or three reports of FGM, in Kurdish areas of Iran and a city in the south. That’s when I decided to start my journey of exploration. At the time I was selecting a subject for my college thesis and I chose FGM in Iran. I worked for three years, writing and collecting my data. After finishing my study I published it as a book entitled Razor and Tradition. That book too was published in Farsi, but I also translated some parts of it in English. These translated sections were included in the report by an Austrian NGO, Südwind, in 2014, Violations of Girls’ Rights: Child Marriage and FGM in the I.R. Iran.
My friend and colleague Fatemeh Karimi has also written a book about these issues:  Tragedy of the Body, Violence against Women (2010).
I studied demography and development at Shiraz University, Iran. I come from a privileged family and who encouraged me to develop my abilities and talents, but it is hard for ordinary people to work in fields such as FGM, because you basically need a salary to meet ends.  Fortunately, my situation enables me to devote my life on this subject and related women's issues, so I am a volunteer, sustained by my family, especially my mother. 
Every day, when I wake up I know that I'm going to be busy. I also made a film about FGM in Iran, I attend conferences, give talks, write articles and use social media to tell people about FGM and why it must stop. I cannot leave or forget to work on this very subject.  Sometimes I ask myself, why do Icontinue?  And I immediately answer myself: “You work hard to convince people that FGM is still happening in some parts of Iran. You should carry on and stand with all girls will become victims, and try to save them”.

VALENTINA MMAKA –Last year, in July, the University of Tehran hosted the first conference about FGM that ever took place in Iran titled Razor of Tradition organized by the Sociology Faculty of Social Science. Along with Nazi Akbari and Ahmad Bokharayee, you were part of the panel’s speakers. Can you share with us what lead to this important conference in Iran and who contributed in making this possible in Iran?
RAHEYE MOZAFARIAN - When StopFGMIran started to inform people about the presence of FGM in the country, the Minister of Women`s Affairs and the director of the children`s rights office at the Ministry of Justice, called me and invited me to have a meeting and talk about this issue and I gave them all my information. After that, I wrote a proposal to start informing people and they accepted it and we are in progress to make a plan to continue working on this issue. In the beginning, it was not easy to convince people and the government to accept. After more than 6 years working hard, the campaign reached a successful stage. However, FGM is a tradition and custom so it is not easy to stop it suddenly. About the conference, it was the first time that one of the official organizations which  depends from the government of Iran, finally broke the silence about this issue in Iran and most of the official and important newspapers published a full report of speakers` speeches with full details.

 VALENTINA  MMAKA - What was the outcome of the conference and in which way do you think it will raise the attention of the Iranian Government in the next future? Who was in the audience?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN -  I organized a workshop in UNFPA at Shiraz University in 2009 when I was a student of demography and at that workshop for one day I talked about FGM and different aspects of this issue with my professors for the students of that university.
For the first national conference at Tehran University, I started my presentation with counting 11 seconds and drew the audience's (journalists, students of sociology and researchers and professor of universities) attention to the fact that every 11 seconds a girl is circumcised in the world. For operation which damages women's sexual organ there are three different terms: Female Genital Mutilation, Female Genital Cutting and Female Circumcision. All three terms are valid for extracting the mining laws.
Article 706 of the Islamic Penal Code states eliminate sexual power and fertility of men and women and the elimination of female or male sexual pleasure is under reported. Article 707 says that full compensation (blood money) awarded to destroy the ability of intercourse. Article 664 of the Penal Code: "cut and remove each of the both sides of female genital devote half of the woman blood money. There is as much blood money for cutting and removing the part of it. There is no difference between virgin and non-virgin, children and adults, healthy and disabled.
I continue my presentation with notice the Islamic points and Female Circumcision: Islam does not recommend circumcision of girls. To extract a ruling in Islam refer to 4 sources is necessary: Quran, Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad`s life), Ijmah (means the viewpoints of religious leaders) and analogy (in this case compare male and female circumcision). There is no evidence in all these sources that Islam recommended FGM.
In another part of her speech I asked the government to give all data and information and all statistical studies to UNICEF. There are 29 countries in the list of UNICEF but more than 10 countries are not in this list, most of them are Middle Eastern countries where FGM is happening. Because their governments does not accept to introduce itself to UNICEF,  addition to this list are postponing and on the other hand more girls are at risk. Iran's government should accept that this problem happens in Iran. I concluded my speech by inviting the audiences to join to “Stop FGM Iran” with remembering the slogan of this campaign: “even one victim is too many”.
One week after the conference, Stop FGM Iran, I organized second workshop in Bastak, one of the city of the south and invited women right's activists who cooperates with the health care organization of the government. Then we visited the great sunnit Ayatollah of that region and talked with him about FGM and gave him our report about the situation of FGM in that area. We decide to continue organizing these kind of workshop in each area.

VALENTINA MMAKA - The Conference's title was Razor and Tradition,  like your book. Can you tell me more about the book and the difficult process of getting it published? What changed from to 2014, when it was not allowed to get published, and now?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - Internal and official Iranian media did not want to support me or talk about FGM, so I focused on the Iranian media abroad and started writing for them. I also sent my book to the Iranian government for permission publish it, but three times they refused.  So I published it in France instead. A year later the government changed and Rouhani became president, so I re submitted my book. Finally, in February 2015, I obtained permission to publish in Iran, and some of the official Iranian newspapers started to write about it.  Then I sent all my information and a lot of copies of my book to the related officials and governmental organizations, to ensure they are aware that FGM is still happening.  We do not know exactly the extent of FGM in Iran, or whether it is becoming less common, because there was no exact data before we started researching. Now we are taking the first steps to eradication, as people start hearing about FGM. Many people ignore that it is done but they don't want to talk about it and destroy their culture.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Iran does not have a law which bans FGM, on the contrary the Penal Code states at article 664 that the cutting or severing of a woman’s genital organs must be paid for by half the compensation for a woman. Based on this law a woman can sue the person who mutilated her. Also article 706 off the Islamic Penal Code states the elimination of sexual ability and fertility of men and women and the elimination of female or male sexual pleasure is under reported. Article 707 says that full compensation is awarded if the ability of intercourse is destroyed. How much are these articles used in reality?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - For the first time I wrote about these articles and introduced them to my government and my people… so it means we can get help from these articles.
But until now there is no case that passed through the legal system in terms of women reporting against the perpetrators, that's why StopFGMIran is trying to use all these article to convince government to pass a special and separate law for eliminating FGM in Iran.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Kurdistan has outlawed FGM in 2011 with a certain success, do you envision the Iranian Government outlawing FGM one day? What impact could have a law which says that FGM is a crime in Iranian society?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - Now with all these laws, FGM is not legal and it is crime…for the first time I collected all Fatwa (sentences) from the greatest Ayatollahs and one of the important Fatwa was Ayatollah Khamenei`s one in which he mentioned that FGM is not obligatory. But to eliminate FGM we need to change the sunnits religious leaders` view points. Stop FGM Iran tries to negotiate with these religious leaders and give them enough information to break this silence about the issue. From Stop FGM Iran, we offered another proposal to the Minister of Women`s Affairs and we collected all these laws, articles and Fatwas and as the role of the constitution of Iran, minister of women`s affairs should offer this proposal to the parliament to study it and then pass a special law.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Even though FGM comes from a patriarchal idea, often women are those who carry the tradition. Is that so because of fear, ignorance or submission?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - Because they try to keep their tradition. Until this time no one talks and inform women about the negative effects of FGM, so  how they would understand that is a violation of their human rights when even their mothers were cut? When I had a speech at CSW59, I gave the audiences  a small red paper and a razor then I asked them to cut their red paper and if they had any question they could ask me. No one asked me and all of them cut their papers without asking any question. Why? Because they trusted me. They had the opportunity to question me but they did not do that. Then I told  them that because they never ask themselves “why”,  and just trusted me, they did what I asked them. Women continue this tradition because they don't know the exact reason and no one turns on the light on their mind about why they shouldn't cut their girls. And they don't try to ask the question or find the answer. So Stop FGM Iran is working to turn on the new light!  

VALENTINA MMAKA -   During the research for your book and in your daily activism how did/do you confront with men?  What is their position related to FGM and how is important their presence in the process of ending FGM?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - It depends on the culture. They are playing an important role in all these societies because the religious leaders are men and they can change the role and law of society if they want. But on the other hand, because men of these areas trust women, most of them do not try to discover the secret of this issue. They believe that most of the girls are circumcised under the care of  women who are the real keepers of this tradition, so apparently to men there's no reason why they should have a word on the issue when in their view, women do their job carefully.

VALENTINA MMAKA -   How is StopFGMinIran working nowadays to raise awareness on FGM? What is the next goal to achieve?
RAYEHE MOZAFARIAN - So we really try and work hard. It was not very easy way and as all other activities there is some other unexpected events without any doubt. We use every tribune to inform people and  we hope that the Parliament will soon pass a special law and UNICEF will accept the existence of this issue in Iran and support us.

To know more about Rayehe Mozafarian's work
Stop Early Marriage in Iran