“Every cairn you see here hides an untold story” – Shloka, a local guide was seen offering enlightening information to tourists pointing towards the plethora of cairns scattered across the scintillating valley of Somaliland. Ria was spellbound seeing those charismatic multi-hued rock cairns arranged beautifully one over the other arousing a sense of aesthetic pleasure in her.
“Can we take a closer look, Shloka?” – an ecstatic Ria exclaimed.
“Sure, why not!”
Ria scrutinized each cairn closely and kept jotting down whatever info she found engraved in those cairns on a notepad. All those cairns were built as a memorial by the Somali tribe for honoring their tribe members. One peculiar aspect Ria found was that all those cairns had a number engraved in them except one which piqued her curiosity.
“Shloka, what’s the story behind that cairn?” – Ria enquired pointing towards the unnumbered cairn.
Shloka sighed and explained, “Ma’am, that Cairn buries the tragic story of Maria, a 16-year-old girl of Somali tribe who abolished a heinous practice prevalent in Somaliland at the cost of her life.”
“Can I have more details on it?” – a curious Ria enquired.
“Ma’am are you aware of FGM?”
“Female Genital Mutilation, right? It’s an extreme form of violence against women, banned in many countries already. Hold on, so you mean this tribe was practicing FGM?”
“Sadly, yes Ma’am. The tribe of Somaliland had this ghastly social norm which they followed rigorously for the sake of tribal honor. Young women had their external genitalia removed using sharp non-sterilized objects for curbing their sexual desires and maintaining their virginity. This resulted in severe consequences including innumerable deaths. Maria was also a victim of FGM.”
Tears welled up in Ria’s eyes. The mere thought of those helpless tribal women suffering this harrowing ordeal made her furious.
“Ma’am, are you fine?”
“Yes, please continue.”
“Maria had suffered the brutal aftermath of FGM and she didn’t want her daughter to undergo similar experience. She fled one night stealthily and was able to get in touch with a human rights activist and narrated her ordeal. The activist helped Maria by providing her a shelter home to spend the rest of her life. Unfortunately, Maria succumbed to the overwhelming infection owing to the aftereffects of FGM. However, her courageous move inspired other tribal women and they started raising their voice against this horrid act which resulted in a revolution. Soon, this practice was abolished, and the tribal women honored Maria’s sacrifice by building that cairn amidst myriad of cairns. All those cairns you see are the memorials of those hapless victims of FGM!”
“Why is Maria’s cairn unnumbered?” – A curious Ria enquired.
“Her bold move helped abolish FGM in Somaliland. So, the women decided to build a cairn that’s unique and would stand out to speak the valiant story of Maria.”
“What about her daughter?”
“She is standing right before you, Ma’am. Sorry for late introduction. My name is Shloka, the proud daughter of Maria!
Author’s Note: FGM is a wretched norm which is still prevalent in specific regions in Africa, Asia and Egypt. The use of blades, stones and other non-sterilized objects for performing FGM results in severe pain, bleeding, difficulty in passing urine, septic infections and in most cases, death. As per the current statistics, 200 million women alive today have undergone FGM. 100 million have died due to its aftereffects. Although UNICEF has declared this as a human right violation, still some tribal regions follow this norm religiously as an age-old tradition for maintaining their dignity and honor.
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