REFLECTIONS ON TURNING THOUGHTS INTO ACTION
For the past couple summers, Ghanian medical students have come to New York to work with Dr. Ades and the EMPOWER lab. This year Florrie Mend-Armstrong visited from the University of Ghana School of Medicine, and had this reflection on her time spent with EMPOWER:
Every Ghanaian child knows what female genital mutilation/cutting is by the time he or she graduates from high school. We are taught it's history, the reason for it's practise according to the tribes that encourage it; we are taught how terrible the effects it has on unfortunate, often helpless victims are.
And everyone knows, everyone including the elderly women who feel compelled by custom to hold down screaming young women(sometimes very young girls;barely teenagers) whilst their genitals are cut with broken glass or dirty blades,to the mother who watches on, fighting whatever compassion that threatens to surface; afraid to object as her daughter's blood curdling screams fill her head;everyone knows that this act is barbaric,savage, inhumane in every sense.
I was surprised and impressed as i listened to students from New York University discuss FGM and it's obstetric and other complications before an EMPOWER meeting. I was also exceedingly ashamed. Ashamed beacause this horror was culturally closer to me than it was to them yet I couldn't recall ever looking at it as anything other than a topic I had to know to pass my exam.
Generally because of hard work by the government of Ghana and a number of NGOs in educating people and also because of rural-urban migration very little is heard about FGM these days. It appears to be fading out in Ghana and so i am yet to meet a patient with such a history.
However, countries like Indonesia and Egypt and Ethiopia and Gambia are still reporting large number of cases.( http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/female-genital-mutilation-denies-women-girls-their-dignity.html)
And until there isn't a single FGM case to report I think every health care provider must be aware of the special reproductive and sexual and emotional health needs of FGM victims. And this was essentially what the EMPOWER team was discussing; how to meet these special needs as well as provide psychological support.
It makes me uneasy to confess that as the meeting progressed all I kept asking myself was," what have you done with what you know?"
The impact the EMPOWER team had on me goes beyond FGC. Without knowing it they have forced me to recognise that even now I know enough to start solving problems. Or at least I can attempt to. That even now, the friends I have and I can think up solutions to problems. That really, the time to be useful to society is now.
I am thankful for the EMPOWER meetings I had the honour of attending whilst in New York city.
Thanks for the motivation.