When Marian Suzel Kamara entered the United States for the first time, the memories of her past ordeal were very much alive in her mind as she remembered her country, Sierra Leone. As a medical doctor by profession who graduated in absentia from the University of Sierra Leone, Marian defied the wishes of her family members and community to protect herself from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Marian Suzel Kamara’s story is difficult to tell. She was from a community where Female Genital Mutilation is dominant and women who refuse the Female Genital Mutilation circumcision process are considered improper women among the rest and are often harassed and intimidated in a number of odd ways. At one point, she was said to have faced threats to the point she was seriously beaten and even hospitalized because she refused to get her external female genitalia ritually removed or cut by the secret female society members locally known as “Bondo society.”
Growing up in her community as a girl, Marian Suzel Kamara was shielded by a sympathetic family member. However, she continued to experience naked discrimination from family and community members because of her refusal to be circumcised. It was said that she wasn’t allowed to engage in common discussions with women that endured Female Genital Mutilation or sit by them because as far as they were concerned she was not pure enough to sit and discuss with them. This situation forced her to relocate to another community, but the discrimination against her person never stopped.
Marian Kamara, who was born and raised in a large family with different cultural and religious practices, has three sisters and two brothers. We were told before she fled to the United States that she can still recall when her sisters were forced to go through Female Genital Mutilation without their consent. Her youngest sister who was only 12 years old by then almost died during the process. She almost bled to death and the perpetrators who were highly influential in Sierra Leone were allowed to slip away with their crime.
And after obtaining a level of education that is rare for Sierra Leone women, she built up and ran a successful business only to have it destroyed by her abusive, influential female community and family members that were propagating Female Genital Mutilation in her newly relocated community. Going to university was important to Miriam Suzel Kamara because she was well determined to have a career and be independent to prove to her people that a woman is not said to be complete by having to go through all the torture of Female Genital Mutilation. After she spent 8 years in medical school hoping for a change in her life, she then experienced what community members speaking to us on condition of anonymity referred to as an emotional, physical, and mental breakdown. They said she received a call from a family member on 16 September 2022, telling her she did well to be the first female in their family to go through university now it’s time for her to join the secret female society for Female Genital Mutilation.
Mirian Suzel Kamara successfully fled to the United States but left Sierra Leone with a well-devastated mind because she knows what her family and her community are capable of doing if she refused to be circumcised. According to our sources, Mirian Suzel Kamara’s family and her community aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to Female General Mutilation. She later realized that her life was at risk and Sierra Leone was no longer safe for her and ran for her life.
Like Marian, many young and in some instances even older women are vulnerable to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Although a few Human Rights Organisations are playing an active role in the fight against FGM, it is currently unknown when this practice will be disbarred in the country.