Khadija Gbla: My mother’s strange definition of empowerment
Khadija Gbla - Cross-cultural consultant
Khadija Gbla was born in Sierra Leone, spent her youth in Gambia, and as a teenager put down roots in Australia. She uses her cross-cultural heritage to promote understanding in both directions. Full bio
my personal journey
the things your body does.
on me, by the way.
well, that's in Sierra Leone as well.
I was checked before I got here.
needs more than one wife.
that's what I say.
in Sierra Leone in 1991.
one night, everything was good.
to kill me and my family.
in Gambia, in West Africa.
was going to become of us.
a little holiday, a little trip."
and ended up in a bush
away from us into a second hut.
I don't know what's going on."
to get her off me, but I couldn't.
with a rusty-looking knife,
water or sunlight before.
to be my clitoris,
and started cutting away, inch by inch.
so this pain will stop,
for what felt like forever,
across the floor
she's ever touched.
and left me there bleeding,
as to what just happened.
that we were coming to Australia,
the Sydney Olympics at the time,
to the end of the world,
to go after Australia.
and then Singapore.
opening the tap like this.
in Adelaide, that's what I would say.
You must take us back to Australia."
there were a lot of Asians in Australia
because they were less racist.
that publication. (Laughter)
and I was the only black child there.
with a bit of a color on me.
to be under the sun.
though. Not the same.
volunteering for an organization
female genital mutilation program
this program was actually about,
nurses and doctors
and now, Australia and London and America,
we live in a multicultural society,
come with their culture,
that we may not agree with,
of female genital mutilation,
they cut off the whole clitoris
or your outer lips,
cut off the whole clitoris
to pee and have your period.
I pretty much had amnesia.
and traumatized by what had happened,
happened to me,
of what had happened.
had a scar down there.
it all came back to me.
holding me down.
what was done to me was a terrible thing
it was called circumcision,
I'm a mutilated person.
pointing at your mother,
talking about, Khadija?"
You circumcised me.
that belonged to me."
and I did it to you.
get itchy down there?"
if you were not circumcised,
get itchy all the time.
to sleep around with anybody."
was very strange. (Laughter)
of our first conversation.
Dolly and Girlfriend magazines.
Anybody remember those sealed sections?
an article about pleasure
that you had a clitoris, though,
would moan like, "Oh! Oh!"
and their damned clitoris.
supposed to do with her life?
"Oh! Oh!" and all of that.
and said to my mom,
I deserve pleasure,
how to find the clitoris."
have a problem finding the clitoris.
It was Dolly that said that.
I had an inner joke in my head
I deserve pleasure, and do you know
what you have denied me?
in the most sacred way.
"Who is Dolly and Girlfriend?
That's a magazine, mom, a magazine."
not having a clitoris was the norm.
that was very clitoris-centric.
this strange phase of anger
an appointment with my therapist.
who has a therapist. There you go.
and then there it was."
I'm not a woman
the sexuality of women.
any sexual desire.
not feeling like having sex,
around the age of 14,
normal periods because of FGM.
and they were very painful.
have children, Khadija."
an angry black woman.
no matter what your may defense may be" --
is harming me, and it's hurting me.
as a mother."
for an apology, by the way.
"You can't have kids."
Is this what life is all about?"
who have gone through FGM
incontinence, constant infections, pain.
because I was born a girl
all that pain, into advocacy
to be worth something.
called No FGM Australia.
Child Protective Services,
is planning on performing FGM on her.
I'll let that sink in: four years old.
who is married to a Malaysian man.
he was going to take their daughters
to cut off their clitoris.
He said they were dirty.
where she said to him,
will you do that to my daughters."
wasn't aware of what FGM was,
flown over to Malaysia
changed for the rest of their lives.
with an issue like that?
performed on them.
It's not a Middle Eastern problem.
it has no color, it's everybody's problem.
a right to sexual pleasure.
a right to our bodies.
and you know what? Bullshit.
I'm doing my part in ending FGM.
who is at risk of FGM.
who comes to your hospital
because of a culture.
a defense for child abuse.
to see FGM as an issue for you.
your sister, your cousin.
and it'll come up, and sign it.
for FGM victims in Australia
growing up here
has a right to pleasure.
to their bodies being left intact,
has a right to a clitoris.
and women to do nothing."
of female genital mutilation
that it ends in my generation.
About the speaker:Khadija Gbla - Cross-cultural consultant
Khadija Gbla was born in Sierra Leone, spent her youth in Gambia, and as a teenager put down roots in Australia. She uses her cross-cultural heritage to promote understanding in both directions.
Why you should listen
Khadija Gbla was just 3-years-old when the war broke out in her country, Sierra Leone. While her family initially escaped to Gambia, 10 years later they attained refugee status and resettled in Adelaide, Australia. The transition was complex—Khadija experienced racism, illness and depression—but threw herself into her education. She discovered that she had a unique talent: the ability to translate across two very different cultures.
Khadija first used this talent as a peer educator for South Australia’s Women’s Heath Statewide program, where she talked to health professionals about female genital mutilation — helping them understand what it is, where it happens, and the cultural beliefs that surround it. She’s since used her multicultural voice to offer advice on policy through South Australian Government Minister’s Youth Council, to organize camps and activities for newly-arrived refugees and to raise awareness about both sexual and mental health issues among her peers. She has represented Australia in the international arena at the Harvard National Model United Nations, Commonwealth Youth Forum and Australian and Africa Dialogue, and speaks regularly at a wide variety of events to make sure that her perspective is heard.
Khadija Gbla | Speaker | TED.com