Agnieszka Napierala

Broken pots

Agnieszka Napierala
May 08, 2012
Filed in: photostories


"It's not possible to forget it (...) despite the passage of years, every day I feel a great emptiness inside" - Silue Djenieba (50), mutilated at age of 15. For several years, Silue Djenieba has been engaged in the fight against the female genital mutilation. She does it for her daughters and their peers. She is afraid to show her face in the picture. She fears to be identified by people from her native village and to be revenged.


“If it was up to me, I would not do it to my daughters. But it’s to a man to decide. If my future husband wanted to do it (GFM), I would agree with him. A woman has to be submissive to her husband” – Fatumata Nassira (15), mutilated at age of 7.


“I was pregnant few times but every time I miscarried. I pray a lot, esp. to Mary to help me, to give me a child.” - Madelaine Toure (35), mutilated at age of 2.


"If a man wants in a woman, a woman can not refuse it. If she objects, she can be punished, he beats her. The rape between husband and wife does not exist. You can not complain to anyone because everyone will comdemn you. When I was younger, I also went through this."- Nassabou Bamba (56), mutilated at age of 9.


“Some women arrived. They took me aside and bound my eyes. Somebody sat on my chest. They opened my legs and did it without asking whatsoever. I cried so much. (…) You cannot say anything, you cannot complain, you just have to accept it. (…) God created the woman like this. A man has not right to do differently. It’s like if somebody chopped off your arm or a leg. Something is missing.” Sanogo Generosa (61), mutilated at age of 6


I I met Baikoro Amoin at the beginning of March 2012, while visiting her daughter-in-law. Amoin believed in the power of tradition and benefits of FGM. She agreed to tell a bit more. For the older generation in particular, this subject remains a large taboo. The more valuable her testimony would be. Ms Amoin had never talked about it. “Such things should not be discussed”. Just before our next meeting Ms Amoin got seriously sick. She had huge breathing problems. On Friday, May 11, she took her thoughts to the other world. We buried…


"They circumcised with me my friend. I was in the agonal state. My dad gave me medicine that helped me a lot. My friend was less fortunate - after a few days, she died."- Soro Awa (40), mutilated at age of 12.


"A non-mutilated woman was not respected by the society, always insulted. Whenever you had an argument with you parents-in-law, they were reproaching you this and insulting you. My mother wanted me to be circoncised in order to avoid familly problems in the future" Kone Nessangbe (49), mutilated at age of 15.


“I’m extremely lucky. I had neither problems with my pregnancy or the delivery and feel pleasure during sex. But I would never do it to my daughter. I do not want her to suffer as much as I did. And there is also a high risk of contaminations, also of AIDS and complications afterwards” - Genevieve Kone (21), mutilated at age of 5.

Anne Marie

"I make love to my husband, just to give him pleasure. Myself, I do not feel anything. No pleasure" Anne Marie (28), mutilated at age of 5.

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More about this Photo Story

It had started by chance, to transform later into a month-long project. It is not easy to talk about taboo topics. Silence. Fear. Escape. At a certain point of time I almost lost hope that I would be able to complete it. Then I met Mrs. Kone and thanks to her the project got out of a dead-end.

Everyday around the world 6,000 girls and women are subject to Female Genital Mutilation.

In Côte d’Ivoire alone over 30% of women are mutilated. FGM has been legally banned there for almost 15 years now. Although this practice has relatively diminished, still thousands of girls and women are forced to go through it.

Female circumcision has gone underground and has beeing carried out on younger and younger girls, also babies.

During 8 months I have managed to reach 10 girls and women who agreed to be photographed and to share their experience. One of them, Soro, compared herself to a “broken pot”. I remember how abruptness and accuracy of this comparison pierced my heart.

Actually, it is not only my project. It is ours. Of us 11. And of other victims of Gender-Based Violence and of all those who are against it.

In Côte d’Ivoire I had an opportunity to work with a non-governmental organization CIDEF (Centre Ivoirien pour la Dignite de l’Enfant et de la Femme/ Côte d’Ivoire Centre for the Dignity of Child and Woman). It brings together over 30 dedicated, local volunteers - doctors, nurses, teachers, tailors, salespersons who help the poorest and the most vulnerable victims of violence - women and children. CIDEF does not only provide medical and psychological assistance, but also campaigns against GBV. It is active in places the most touched by violence and which are not reachable by International NGOs. Soro, Silue, Anne Marie and Nassabou are CIDEF’s members.

Thanks to Janek Brykczynski for his valuable hints and a helpful heart.

Learn more about: Agnieszka Napierala

Social photographer/ documentalist.

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