Isnino was 18 years old when she became an assistant circumcision master. In the Muslim community of Tana River County, where she grew up, in eastern Kenya, girls’ haircuts were considered a religious obligation and a prerequisite for marriage. endured it myself “fury of a sharp knife blade” before applying it to others, writes a Kenyan newspaper nation in a portrait dedicated to this woman who is now struggling with female genital mutilation.

Excision is a mutilating operation that involves the removal of all or part of a woman’s external genitalia. Despite the many complications associated with this practice (infections, illness, painful intercourse, unsafe pregnancies and childbirth), the rite of passage has long been part of the culture in many parts of Kenya. Female circumcision, banned in 2011, is still practiced in some communities.

“Across much of Tana River County, it thrives in secret. Fortunately, there are many whistleblowers.” says Isnino, now 40. She began practicing circumcision to rise to the rank of nobility in her village. “Everyone who took part in the exercises was valued and respected. That’s what fascinated me the most. To earn the admiration of my peers, my husband, and be seen as a person who has preserved our culture.”

Seminar organized by imams

In the mid-2000s, under the influence of prevention campaigns, the girl saw a growing number of girls who refuse the ritual. “We mocked them and shamed them with dancing, because it was considered cowardly,” remembers the repentant circumciser.

Through her work to raise awareness of female genital mutilation, Isnino became aware for the first time of the effects of the practice on the education of young girls who are out of school during the healing period. Haunted by the pain she causes, she completes her task in the name of religion, but begins to have doubts: “If this is a matter of religion, then why do some believing Muslims not practice it?”

Eventually she is persuaded to stop smoking thanks to a seminar organized by the imams. Isnino has since led a campaign to eradicate the practice. According to a UNICEF study cited nation, one in ten teenage girls in Kenya is still female circumcised, compared to one in two thirty years ago. Girls from rural, poor and poorly educated Muslim families remain the most vulnerable to this practice.