8,000 girls a day must have rights

masai girl kenyaAt Intrepid our aim is to support and respect the protection of what are internationally proclaimed as human rights issues, and we want to make sure that we are not complicit in human rights abuses, within our sphere of influence. An Intrepid traveller recently questioned our decision to visit a Masai village in Kenya, where they still perform the abhorrent practice of female genital cutting or mutilation (FGM). This raises a very important issue that we want to share with you all.

We know that the practice still occurs all too frequently in several popular tourist destinations – parts of Africa, the Middle East and some communities in Asia and Latin America. Rather than boycotts, which can add to poverty and isolation, we hope that we may better help through education, awareness raising and supporting organisations that are working effectively to campaign against this barbaric practice.

Our friends at Amnesty International have shared with us the following information: The World Health Organisation estimates that 100-140 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM. Three million more girls and women worldwide each year. That’s 8000 girls per day.

There are many degrees of FGM, but in all cases it entails the cutting, stitching or removal of part or all of the female external genital organs for non-therapeutic reasons. The mutilation of healthy body parts severely affects the health and well-being of women and girls, who can suffer extreme pain, excessive bleeding, septic shock, infections, difficulty in passing urine, and even death. Long-term consequences include chronic pain, pelvic infections, cysts, abscesses, excessive scar tissue formation, infected reproductive systems and painful intercourse. Psychological impacts include fear of intercourse, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and memory loss.

All of this is bad enough, but Amnesty International and other organisations also have found that FGM is hampering the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Most obviously, the goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women cannot be achieved when the physical and psychological effects of FGM prevent women and girls from attending school, keeping paid employment and participating in social and political life. The goal of reducing child mortality also is at odds with the practice of FGM on infants and young girls – in Africa, for example, 1-2 per cent of babies die due to FGM.

Because FGM causes obstructed labour and an increased risk of caesarean sections, it also is hampering the goal to reduce the numbers of women dying in childbirth. Additionally, when women haemorrhage because of these problems and need blood transfusions, they are at higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. FGM further hampers the goal to combat HIV/AIDS because the procedure often is carried out on number of girls at one time, without disinfecting the knife or razor in between each procedure. Women who have been subjected to FGM also have an increased risk of vaginal tearing during intercourse, making them vulnerable to infection.

Intrepid Travel and The Intrepid Foundation are long-term supporters of Amnesty International. To help contribute positively to the communities we visit, we urge you to join us and go to www.endfgm.eu to help end the practice of FGM.

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support Amnesty International and many other great grassroots organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 per donor and a total of AU$300,000 each financial year.

* photo by Marc Ehrenbold – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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I went on an Intrepid safari two years ago and our group discussed FGM with the Masai too. Check out http://www.responsibletravel.com/Copy/Copy103404.htm.


It is distressing to realise that thousands of girls and women around the world are still suffering FGM and more should definitely be done to try to eradicate this practice. Noel P comments that we should not dictate how others should live as our society is certainly not perfect. Well it isn’t, but our society also used to support slavery, public executions and denied the vote to women and other ethnic groups. Fortunately we no longer believe these things and have moved on. Just because something has always been done does not make it OK and we need to educate people to leave these barbaric practices behind – there is no place for it in the 21st century.


I appreciate that Intrepid is not afraid to face these issues. It can be a difficult decision sometimes, whether to boycott a region to avoid supporting an abuse, or continue going there, to bring in the potential means and resources to effect a change.


When I went to visit a Massai village the villager who was our guide commented that ,”We know that you people do not approve of female castration but that is our way.” I don’t think it is ending anytime soon. I think you have to hurt people in the pocket book to make an impact.


Having in the last month been thru the Maasai Mara and Serenegeti and spoken with elders of a true Maasai tribe about the female circumcision practise I was told it is no longer done. I guess as there is many tribes spread over a huge area there will be villages that still carry out this tradition. Whilst we in the western world think we have a better way of life it is not our right to dictate to these people who have been surviving for centuries. Lets first look at our shocking record in the western world where items such as drugs are far more disgusting and damaging and the treatment of women is appalling. They are treated as sex objects. Lets get real and treat everyone equally.


It is articles such as these that make Intrepid stand out as a tour operator, and make me a repeat customer. It takes a lot of integrity to tackle the difficult and unpleasant topics as well as the fun ones- but it’s important to foster a well-rounded understanding of any country that you’re visiting and supporting with tourism dollars. Thank you Intrepid- for addressing FGM, for matching donated dollars, and for hopefully keeping this issue an active element of your charitable outreach and philanthropy.


An important topic. But I wonder, is there more than can be done by Intrepid when it enters these communities? I understand giving money to other organizations who help combat these practices, but what about what Intrepid and Intrepid travelers can do while they’re there? It seems like a powerful opportunity that just donating money can’t match. Great that this is being discussed.

Annaliese Day / Reply

Well Done Intrepid for providing an excellent snapshot into the trauma and terrible statistics of this horrible ritual.
Definitely never stop traveling to these destinations – the more people who are aware of these invisible crimes the better.
Anyone interested in learning more I recommend http://www.waris-dirie-foundation.com/en/ and reading or watching Waris’ books/movie.

Congratulations Intrepid at talking about the tough issues.

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