Author to talk about female genital mutilationWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Soraya Miré will never forget the sound of scissors, cutting the flesh between her legs as she underwent ritual female genital mutilation (FGM) as a teenager.
“The pain was horrendous,” Miré, who was 13 at the time, recalled years later during an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “I struggled to get away, but I was held down by three people, including my mother.”
Four years later, Miré left her native Somalia to live in France and later the United States, where she is now an author, award-winning documentary filmmaker, recipient of the U.N.’s Humanitarian Award and activist raising awareness of the ritual cultural practice she calls child abuse.
“God will never give you anything you cannot handle, I know for sure right now,” Miré told Toledo Free Press Star in a telephone interview. “I was given a chance to go to the Western world, where I saw how other people lived and what it means to be a woman.”
Reconstructive surgery and years of therapy helped Miré recover from her physical and emotional wounds, but healing will be a lifelong process.
“Those early years with my doctor were a foundation of the strength I have and the recovery I’ve made thus far, but as any trauma survivor could tell you, the flashbacks come back without notice,” Miré said. “There are times you feel overwhelmed with the pain inside. My job is to stay strong and help others because I’ve been helped. I’ve been so lucky to find hope in this world.”
Miré will appear in Toledo on Oct. 20, as part of a nationwide book tour to promote her new memoir, “The Girl With Three Legs.” The free event is set from 7-9 p.m. at People Called Women bookstore, 6060 Renaissance Place.
The title refers to a belief in some cultures that if a girl’s clitoris is not cut it will grow. That belief led to Miré being shunned by her classmates until she had the operation.
An estimated 135 million women and girls, mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, are affected by FGM, which is performed with the purpose of keeping a woman’s honor and purity intact until marriage, Miré said.
“No one came and asked our consent. Honestly, we couldn’t say ‘Stop.’ This was a mutilation. We were told this was our destiny,” Miré said. “So my job became to never forget, to always be persistent to talk about those young girls that are going through this every day. It’s a crime, it’s shameful, it needs to be stopped. It’s child abuse. This is my life mission. As long as FGM continues, I’m going to be shouting from rooftops, making films and keep writing my story, going to everywhere I can.”
Miré hopes her story inspires people going through any kind of struggle.
“Anyone who is feeling like there is no hope, I want to give that hope to them,” Miré said. “I think reading about my life and seeing how difficult it was and yet somehow I found these angels who, without their help, I couldn’t be here today. I want my readers to know whatever they are facing, they too will find amazing souls who will help them through their problems just as I did.”
Before Miré’s appearance, from 6:30-7 p.m., local organization Nirvana Now! will host “Sistas Movin’ On: SPEAK OUT! Support and Sisterly Love for Women Incest, Child Sexual Abuse and Rape Survivors,” an opportunity for survivors and co-survivors — partners, mothers or sisters struggling to know how to support and react to what loved ones have experienced — to speak to other survivors about their experiences.
“It’s an opportunity for women to talk privately and yet publically,” said Nirvana Now! founder CeCe Norwood, who plans to host SPEAK OUT!s from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each third Thursday of the month at the bookstore. “I have been working in this field for more than 30 years now and one of the things I have learned that’s a key component for folks on their journeys to recovery is they have to talk about it publicly. If a person does not do that, they end up stuffing all those feelings and emotions inside, which leads to all kinds of negative effects.”
Norwood, herself a survivor of sexual violence, said she hopes the event will be empowering, liberating and show survivors that happiness is possible again.
“In our world, there is this notion that once you are sexually violated that somehow or another your life is over, but it’s not,” Norwood said. “It was wrong, it was horrible and you’re going to go through all kinds of hell for the initial part of it, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gina Mercurio, owner of People Called Women, said there has been a good response.
“Her [Miré’s] focus is violence against women and a lot of the people connected to the store here care very deeply about those issues,” Mercurio said. “I think it will be a fabulous event.”
Event sponsors include People Called Women, Nirvana Now!, the University of Toledo Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Program and UT Women’s and Gender Studies Department.