Alima is originally from Guinea. She is 21 years old and mother to two daughters. The kids' dad was a Guinean opposition politician - and as the situation became unsafe due to that fact, she decided to flee. Today she lives in Dortmund, Germany - however, even in a safe environment, she can't escape her harrowing past. But she decided that talking openly about her fate would be her contribution in the fight against FGM.
DW - Life Links: Do you remember the moment you were cut? How old were you?
Alima: I was six years old back then. The cries from that moment always catch up with me. They told me to wake up, that I had to go to school. I wasn't at school yet but they told me, 'You can start going to school.’ I was very happy and I was treated well. They dressed me and made my hair. When I arrived, there were four women, two held the hands and one held the feet, another made the cut. When they cut me, I saw the blood and fainted. I bled for six days. The blood ran and ran. It wouldn't stop. They told me to eat meat to replace the blood but because we were poor we couldn't afford it. So I'd say to God, to the whole world, that little girls shouldn't be cut because it is something very painful.
How was your life after you were cut?
It felt like they had taken a part of my body away. I'm not the same as before and I will never be the same. It's like death. Even if you are married and lay with our husband, you only do it to satisfy him, you'll never feel it yourself. You don't feel the love. All that ceases to exist, it's all over. I prefer not to make love at all. It means nothing to me, absolutely nothing, it was all taken away from me.
And your parents, what do they say?
My parents said, 'She will get the cutting. Because we are Muslim, and thus, it's normal. That's what is called Sunna, a Muslim tradition.'
But it is not written in the Koran...
It's not written down, and that's what I told them. But she told me it’s our tradition and that's why we have to do it. She said that a girl who is not cut will follow the men, want to make love and risk having many children. Then I said, 'but it's not good for your health'. She said, 'no. If you are not cut, you'll have a bad smell and for having a good smell we need to have you cut.'
Is it right that you were forced into marriage?
I was forced into marriage when I was 14.
A cousin. His dad and my mum had the same mother. I resisted it with all my power so they decided on a forced marriage. If you marry in that family, you make the family grow. That's why they didn't want somebody else to come and take me. You have to marry within the family. I said, 'no. I don't want to'. Everyone said that it has to be this way, my mother, my uncles, my brother, my sisters, my dad.
Can you tell me about the wedding night?
He raped me. I was a virgin. They took ropes, like they do it with cattle and tied me at my hands. They tied me under the window sill and people waited outside for a cloth stained with blood to know whether I was a virgin or not. Because if you are a virgin, people there dance and laugh and eat. But it was forced. I didn't love that guy. The first time I had sex, I was raped. I endured six days locked in the house and he forced me each day.
Each day. I could not even go to the hallway, I was only in that room. When he came in, he locked it and when he left, he locked it. That was a catastrophe for me. I have so many sorrows in my life. I can't even speak about all the times it comes back to my mind again and I want to cry out. But who will understand me? Nobody. It's not good to end my life with regard to my children. I have to help them. They shouldn't suffer like me. Without them, I would have ended my life.
Are you married now?
No, I'm not married but there's a man that I love a lot. Even if he asks me to make love, I only do it to satisfy him, not for myself. It doesn't satisfy me. I have children, but the moment of birth caused problems due to the cutting. It's just not good for your health or your body.
But how was it giving birth to your daughter?
There were difficulties. When they asked me whether I was cut and I said yes. The birth lasted for three days. The child wouldn't come. Because I was cut, I had complications and they couldn't operate on me. Thank God that I didn't die. Yes, it's all suffering. It's a lot of suffering and that's why we need to stop this.
What is it like with your daughter now?
When I'm with my little daughter and I take her in my arms, all the worries are gone. I say: ‘yes, I have someone in my life, because you are there.’ I tell myself that I have to be strong, very, very strong for you. Not for me myself, but for you.
When did you come here?
I came here in December, 2013.
How did you come here?
I had lost my husband, I was pregnant and one of his friends said he'd help me. He helped me to come here but then he raped me. He told me there wasn't money to pay for me so I had to ‘earn’ my stay with sex. He said he likes having sex with pregnant women. I only knew his name, he was from Guinea, so I could only give his name, but the police said that wasn't enough to find him. If I knew his date of birth they could arrest him. That was a terrible situation for me, I swear…
It was a horrible life for me.
What is life like for you now?
I don't have work and I need to keep learning the language, because I like the country, I like the people. I'll go to school to speak the language better and once I speak the language better, I can do a lot of things with it. I want to speak freely. But I have not experienced much of that. I'm even scared to make friends because I have had so many problems in my life.
Why are you afraid of making friends?
I think each time I see someone, I think, someone did bad things to me and that person might also do those things. That's why I'm scared of having friends.
Is there something that helped you? A book, a person, something like that?
There's a woman, a psychologist, that I see from time to time. When we meet, I'll explain a little bit and reveal a bit of myself. I'm very confident meeting her. Because so far I didn't know who I could talk to who would understand me. But she understands. She freed me.
Have you thought about having reconstructive surgery?
I decided to have the surgery because I suffer. I'd like to be like you are. I'd like to be complete. I don't know what love is. I've never had an orgasm in my life. I do make love and one day with my friends at school we talked between girls, everyone told me 'I have orgasms' and I said 'what is that, an orgasm? Is that not only for men?' And they said, 'no, women can also have orgasms.' And I was like 'what?' And they said 'yes, that moment when you have an orgasm is like having sugar and honey everywhere in your body, you'll laugh.' And I would love to have that. But I don't. A pity for me, but I don't have it. Then I found out about reconstructive surgery and the moment I heard about it, I decided to have it. I'm ready for it.
Are you also a little bit scared about undergoing reconstructive surgery?
I want to do it. The moment when they told me about it, I was very happy, I was like 'that exists?' They said 'yes, we can do it here'. I want to do it. Because I don't know - what is life? What is love?