This Teacher Wanted to Make Sure No Girl Endured What She Did

Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 in Events, Featured

Meet Karimeh, Survivor from West Africa

She wanted to make sure that what happened to her as a child would never happen to another girl in Benin, her West African country.

“I was restrained by a group of men and women who held me down by force on a mat on the ground. I saw an old woman kneeling at the edge of the mat with a knife…and I just remember screaming, crying and struggling to be let free. It was so painful. I believed I was going to die….”

At just 10 years old, Karimeh was the victim of female genital mutilation or FGM. She belonged to a tribe that practiced this horrible rite of passage for young girls — a myth thought to ensure fidelity to their future husbands. These procedures were done without anesthetic by tribal elders with no medical training. Sadly, Karimeh remembers many young girls in her tribe that died of infection or suffered life-long complications such as infertility.

With pressure from the United Nations, the Benin government finally banned FGM. However, the practice continued in her tribe as the Benin government never enforced the new law. As an adult, Karimeh felt compelled to stop the archaic practice and to protect the girls in her community. Karimeh studied hard and became a teacher at a school for girls. Besides teaching English and Math, Karimeh taught the girls about women’s health. She knew that many were being prepared for FGM and educated the young girls and their mothers about its dangers and about the new law which prohibits it.

When one of her favorite students admitted that their family forced her to undergo the painful procedure, Karimeh filed a report with the local police. Her outspokenness raised the ire of tribal elders and parents alike. One day, in front of her students, she was grabbed by a group and dragged to the village center. She was tied between 2 poles and publicly flogged — all while the police looked on. Wounded, bloodied and terrified, she was left in a heap on the street. Karimeh knew she had to flee…or she would be killed. Like many survivors we help, Karimeh said good-bye to everyone she knew.

Her long journey to safety started in Benin and ended in Los Angeles. Southern California is the country’s #1 destination for refugees of torture, persecution or other forms of human rights abuse.

Its no surprise that Karimeh suffers from back pain that keeps her from being able to sleep on her back. She spent everything she and her fellow teachers gave her just to get to the U.S. and to safety.

Today,  Karimeh’s calls Los Angeles her  home, in addition to PTV helping her with medical care and the  monumental task of applying for political asylum, she also attends a PTV writing group, where she has made friends and has decided to explore journalism as a potential new career.

She is a strong and courageous young woman!




African Scholars