FGM Survivor Flees to U.S.

Ms. T, a citizen of The Gambia, knew something was wrong when her aunt came to her home and said that Ms. T, age 12, and her sister were going to a “party.” Their mother cried out in protest, frightening Ms. T. But they were powerless to stop her aunt.

After walking for some time, Ms. T and her aunt arrived at a large gathering of young girls. One by one, the girls were led into a dark room, where older women held them down and performed a ritual known as female genital mutilation (FGM), the excision of all or part of a young girl’s genitalia, often performed without anesthetic or sterilized equipment.
 
The abuse galvanized Ms. T’s belief that FGM is an oppressive act of violence against women that must stop. In high school, she joined several anti-FGM advocacy organizations that work to raise awareness about FGM, with the aim of abolishing the practice.
 
One day, Ms. T’s family informed her that she had been betrothed to an older man. Her mother also told her of the long-term health risks associated with FGM, marriage, and childbirth. Fearful for her life, Ms. T secretly applied to school in Minnesota. When accepted, she convinced her parents to allow her to defer the marriage until she completed her studies.
 
Ms. T came to the United States in August 2011, and applied for asylum. She found The Advocates for Human Rights through an on-line search. After a year-long wait, she was granted asylum in 2013.
 
She is extremely thankful for the assistance she received from volunteer attorneys Dean Eyler, Karen Wenzel, and Liz Dillon of Gray Plant Mooty. “I needed support to be able to stay here legally,” she said. “They helped me find my way.”
 
While physically distant from her home in The Gambia, she remains engaged in the fight to end FGM and violence against women.