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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 19:54 GMT
Drama changes attitudes towards genital mutilation
Somali refugees
Many parents have stopped performing the ritual
Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be practised in approximately 28 countries in Africa.

Whilst considered by some cultures as an essential rite of passage to womanhood, opposition to the practice has largely come from outside these communities, with the United Nations pledging to eradicate it within three generations.

Working to change attitudes from within, a local Nigeria-based theatre group has got together with local communities to devise a play about FGM based on the real life experiences of women.

"Most community work relies on getting an access point," creator Chuck Mike explained to the BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"We had to make those connections first, then the most difficult thing is to talk but when they do it is the first point of liberation."


Chuck Mike's play, devised with Performance Studio Workshop, is called Sense of Belonging - the tale of Ikpiko.

A woman washes her hands after circumcising a Somali girl
Circumcision is often performed in unhygienic conditions
Ikpiko is a reference to the abuse against girls who are not circumcised in western Nigeria.

The play unfolds during an "inquiry on the happen stances" of FGM, where seven affected women recount their experiences.

"In western Nigeria we have 89-90% prevalence of women who have been circumcised," explained Mr Mike.

"It is rare that people would escape circumcision in that environment."


Having had their testimonies dramatised for the theatre, Mr Mike also explained how he has collaborated on a film with the aim of eradicating FGM in Nigeria.

In "Uncut: Playing With Life", scenes of circumcision are juxtaposed with the stories of several of the women who were involved in the original drama project.

Drama, the non-profit theatre group hopes, will be a powerful tool to educate women about the dangers of the practice.

"The central character in this was a circumciser," Mr Mike explained. "She eventually dropped her tools and advocated for change in her community."

Presenting the problem of FGM through the eyes of a circumciser, women talk to the camera about their anger and frustration when they discovered that they had been circumcised as babies.

"My mother said this is what they do to girls and to her it is a great thing that she has achieved what she needs to achieve," one girl explained.

"To me I see that she has deprived me of my pleasure."


Methods and reasons for circumcision may vary from group to group, but The World Health Organisation estimates that globally, around 130 million women have been circumcised, with the highest incidence found in parts of Africa.

The majority of FGM takes the form of a clitoridectomy, which involves removing all or part of the clitoris.

This is frequently performed by untrained people using blunt, unhygienic instruments, without anaesthetics, often resulting in heavy bleeding, infections and sometimes death.

Chuck Mike speaks to Everywoman
"The most difficult thing is to talk"
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