„FGM in Japan?” Judy Peterson had written me on hearing where I was presenting — on „FGM in Germany” — on July 6, 2013. Yes, for 17 years, Tokyo has offered financial and moral support to African projects to stop FGM. In fact, I had met two representatives of „Women’s Action against FGM – Japan” in 1997 in Dakar at an Inter-African Committee (IAC) conference. WAAF, like UnCUT/VOICES Press, shares the IAC‘s human rights approach, codified in the Bamako Declaration, that understands ablation of a girl’s genitalia as child abuse and an Ur-feminist issue. … So, in Tokyo, we reached beyond the history and challenges faced by our respective efforts to ask a fundamental question: What triggered our commitment? What is it about FGM that had moved us outsiders to act so devotedly – and for so long — to end this specific form of violence? „Standing in a bookstore, I spotted Khady’s Blood Stains [in Japanese, of course], started reading and couldn’t stop. My stomach clenched, my legs twitched, my whole body grew taut. That little girl’s voice had hit a nerve and, so shocking, it has never let me go,” Cat Moon Koyomi aka Suzuki-san offered after the talk as a small group gathered in café Bon Art over dinner. Ironically, we were across the street from Tokyo University’s famous Akamon, Red Gate, constructed in 1827 to honor a Shogun’s daughter who was to pass through from her father’s to her husband’s home – from one form of confinement to another. Did our venue signal a need to explore what it was about being female that tied us viscerally to the girl children, miles away, subjected en masse to the blade? We retrieved memories of our empathic leaps, those ‚clicks‘ that had changed many of our lives. Was it the Program Coordinator for Global Health in the Africa Japan Forum, Mieko Kurokawa, a midwife, who volunteered her professional experience with fistula that led to opposing FGM as a contributing factor to this intense suffering? Had concern in her work for female bodies triggered sharp awareness of girls’ – and all women’s — vulnerability? WAAF’s own midwife, Yuriko Tsuchiya, nodded. VVF, a heart-breaking affliction which she, too, confronts as a nurse, led her to the cause, while Tsuchiya-san who teaches nursing includes FGM in her curriculum. … For Mitsue Ohi, our excellent interpreter, it had been CNN – the famous broadcast at the 1994 Population Conference in Cairo. Disbelief, followed by a torrential impulse to do what she could, overwhelmed her. Shortly thereafter, when WAAF was born in 1996, the group met Alice Walker when her publisher brought her to Japan and provided Japanese sub-titles for screenings of Warrior Marks. Inspired, they built a movement – to continue until FGM, an outrage to womanhood per se, stops for good. It was a shared visceral wrath, born in identification of female potential for genital trauma, that brought us together, the Japanese and German movements working toward a broader peace.
I wish to thank my host Sachiko Mitsumori, our interpreter Mitsue Ohi, moderator Nina Raj, and WAAF’s attentive, articulate participants for introducing me to their association. Thanks also to KHADY and to Alice Walker for placing the welfare of African girls above their own personal safety and comfort.
And don’t miss Khady’s inspiring story. You can order Blood Stains at www.uncutvoices.com