To coincide with International Women’s Day, Tuesday 8 March, Bindy Taylor shares with Revive the story of Khadija Gbla, executive director of No FGM Australia. Khadija will also be the keynote speaker at the UnitingWomen conference to be held in Adelaide this April.
Spending time with Khadija Gbla is an uplifting experience – she is as passionate and as vocal one-on-one as she is speaking to a gathering of 1,000 people. Khadija has squeezed a lot of life into her 27-years, and she feels compelled by God to share her life experiences, both the ups and the downs, to instill hope in others.
At the age of nine, Khadija underwent female genital mutilation (FGM), an unnecessary and cruel act of violence. At the time, Khadija had no idea what was happening to her, but she is now able to name it for what it is – human rights abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse. It is an experience she wants no other girl or woman to go through.
FGM, also known as female circumcision, has no known health benefits and is largely practiced in countries within Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Common reasons given for performing FGM include social acceptance, hygiene, ideas relating to female sexuality, purity and modesty, religion, and cultural identity. While it has been restricted or outlawed in many of the locations where it is practiced, FGM procedures continue to be performed. The dangerous act can lead to ongoing health problems, inability to conceive a child and complications during childbirth.
In her widely watched TED Talk, Khadija explains that FGM is very much an issue in Australia, as new Australians bring the culture with them when they settle. Many who seek the procedure believe they are doing what is best for their daughter, but Khadija’s goal is to spread the word that FGM is abuse, and to change the cultural practice for good.
No FGM Australia estimates that three girls each day are at risk in Australia.
“This is an Australian problem. It’s not an African problem, it’s not a Middle Eastern problem, it’s not white, it’s not black, it has no colour. It’s everybody’s problem,” Khadija said.
“FGM is child abuse. It’s violence against women. It’s saying that women don’t have a right to sexual pleasure. It’s saying that women don’t have a right to their bodies.
“Well I say ‘no’ to that.”
As an adult, Khadija was told that FGM would prevent her from falling pregnant. But she held tight to Jesus’ teachings and never let go of hope.
“When we hope, we are waiting for God to act; without hope there is nothing. After all, isn’t faith hope?”
After marrying her partner, Khadija and her husband yearned for a baby. She recalls her husband reaching for her hand and saying: “In God’s kingdom anything is possible, we need to believe, pray and hope that God will act.”
Prayers were answered with the news that Khadija was pregnant. She and her husband are now the elated parents of a one-year-old son named Samuel, meaning “heard by God.”
Khadija will share her experiences of God responding to hope and prayer in all facets of her life when she speaks at the UnitingWomen conference.
“Women need to be uplifted in life, to keep in faith and remain strong. God just needs a mustard seed to be able to act. Women all have a point of need – what hope looks like for one woman looks differently for another,” she says.
“We have all started somewhere and sometimes we need to hear from others how we have journeyed in life. Testimonies give us hope.”
- Khadija will speak on Friday 29 April at 9.00am as part of the four-day UnitingWomen 2016 conference. Hers is just one of the stories that will be shared at the conference, which focusses on the theme “Stories of Hope.”
- UnitingWomen will be held from Thursday 28 April–Sunday 1 May at Wesley Kent Town Uniting Church, Adelaide. Registration costs $195, which includes workshop materials, a welcome bag, supper, and morning and afternoon teas. Delegates are responsible for organising their own accommodation and meals, although guidance in these areas will be available.
- To register visit www.unitingwomen.org.au register or contact Tim Molineux on firstname.lastname@example.org or (08) 8236 4221. You can also visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/UnitingWomen2016.
- Hear Khadija’s emotional and humorous TED talk, as she shares her experience with female genital mutilation at https://www.ted.com/talks/khadija_gbla_my_mother_s_strange_definition_of_empowerment.
- Find out more about female genital mutilation at http://www.nofgmoz.com.
This article originally appeared in our sister publication of the Uniting Church in South Australia, New Times.