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City of Banjul
Sunday, October 1, 2023



Barely 6,

I had no idea where grandma was taking me,

My mother said everything will be fine.

Caught between curiosity and confusion,

Talks for the past days came to mind,

That I was going to turn woman in their eyes.

That I am yet to be a complete female in their eyes

That I carried with me impurities.

Mother said it wouldn’t hurt.

That it would be over before it even starts.

That it was a normal phase to go through…

That she did,

That my aunts did,

That my gran and her great grans did.

All this I am to know to be true.

Mother said I will be fine,

That a few months later I’ll look back and smile.

That I’ll grow a woman strong and fine.

But I wondered why mother looked scared.

Why she was shivering as she helped me dress.

Like she was being forced to wrap me in cloths…

My cousins like me, were equally bewildered…

Led into a cleared path of tall bushes, I walked bare-footed.

Papa watched me from a distance.

I wondered why Papa wasn’t wearing a smile.

Papa was supposed to be happy and proud.

I wondered why he wore that solemn look.

Did somebody die?



The story goes on…

For I didn’t know where my grandmother was taking me but I followed…

My mother had said everything will be alright.

Old aunts chanted some songs,

Of strong women, living by the words of even stronger men…


But the story goes on…

Outside of a black hut,

Was a large woman,

Old and dressed in sad and black.

She was tall and strong,

She was almost a man.

She looked at me and grinned her teeth, kolanut-ridden teeth.

I had envisioned her different,

A beautiful woman in a colorful headtie, smiling wide and welcoming girls,

I imagined cheerful dances…

Young women sharing hugs and sowe,

Singing us songs as they welcomed us on…


But Fatou, my grandmother walked me over to that woman…

and it was then that I turned to look for mother.

She was far away and she mouthed to me: “everything will be fine…”

But then I wondered… why was she in tears?

Why were the other women holding her close?

Did somebody die?


I was first in line,

I was told to lie on the mat…

A mat that has seen the many backs of girls…

On a small calabash filled with water, she soaked her manly hands.

Wiped them clean and splayed my legs,

Grandmother held my arms,

two strange women held my legs.

She opened a new razor,

gave me a clean cut,

wiped me clean and let me go.


This was the story I told myself, all these years… Until yesterday…

Memories of a night thirteen years ago, suddenly replayed in my head,

A memory of a girl I always thought was dead.

Walked into a hut of female strangers.

Laid on a mat, legs spread apart…

… Strong old woman

old rusty knife…

…calabash of water…

All came to mind.

Three strange faces…

Crackling fire…

Red hot knife…

Dark clotted blood…

Searing pain…

Painful screams…

Screams of pain…

Pain from hurt…

All of this happened in that hut.

A little girl,

Barely 6.

Cleaned off every filth,

turned to a woman,

a bleeding woman,

She was stopped.

She was sealed.

With red clotted blood,

She was sealed.

With a piece of her being,

She was sealed.

Neither tears nor might sufficed, She was purified.

And instead of dying, she survived.

A brutality from which she’ll never be healed.




Thirteen years on…I stare at myself.

Unable to relate to the pleasures of the world.

Having to preserve myself for the available man.

Who understood my pain, and cared not that I lived in shame, at having to be the living example of a human scale, of God’s wants and man’s needs.


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