First published by The Hoopla, 4 February 2015
Khadija Gbla, who suffered female genital mutilation as a little girl, has given birth to a baby boy in Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
It was the child she thought would never be born.
Speaking exclusively to The Hoopla from her maternity ward, Khadija said of her new baby: “He is my own victory against FGM. It’s a miracle that he is here, it’s surreal.”
Samuel Williams Jr (named after his father), was born during an emergency cesarean at 11.14pm on Monday night after Khadija started having “really bad” contractions and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance on Monday evening.
Khadija was circumcised when she was just nine years old.
Her mother took her to the bush in Gambia and pinned her down while an old lady cut away at her genitals with a rusty knife. The coming-of-age practice is commonplace in Khadija’s homeland. Why is such mutilation practised and condoned? Read more here.
It left Khadija with internal scarring that could have caused her baby’s head to become stuck if she had tried to deliver him without intervention. Khadija’s doctors told her it would be unsafe for her or the baby to attempt a natural delivery. She was booked in for a c-section. It was her only option.
“The emotional toll, and the physical toll, and the psychological toll…” Khadija said, recalling the impending birth. “A couple of times I thought I was going to have a vaginal birth, and I thought ‘I can’t have this baby through my vagina. No way, are you kidding me’?”
The reproductive problems that have plagued Khadija’s life led her to believe she would never give birth. But Samuel Williams Jnr arrived at 38 weeks, and, at almost three kilos and 51cm long – is a triumph.
“Everyone is doing fine. We’re both OK,” a relieved Khadija told The Hoopla.
Before arriving in Australia, Khadija, 26, lived through a civil war in Sierra Leone, and for three years she lived with her mother and younger sister in a Gambian refugee camp. In June 2001, Khadija and her family resettled in Adelaide after attaining refugee status via the United Nation’s Refugee Program.
Khadija was a South Australian Young Australian of the Year finalist for her outspoken campaigns against racism and FGM.
Looking at her baby boy, she says: “Every time I look at him it is a win against FGM. I kept on checking that he was really here, he is mine, and he’s not going anywhere. I still can’t believe it. It’s like I’m in a dream, there are no words to describe it.”
“I kept on waking him up when he was very quiet, I kept looking over looking at him and rubbing his cheeks just to make sure he was there.”
To celebrate Samuel’s birth The Hoopla is donating to No FGM Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns to abolish Female Genital Mutilation.
Khadija is a spokesperson for the group, which has set up a petition asking the government to take action to protect girls against FGM.
“It would be such a nice legacy”, Khadija says. “He’s come into this world, and that’s his contribution to a cause that has almost made him not come into the world: he has defied the odds of FGM. He’s giving the finger to FGM.”
Help stop the cruel disfiguration of little girls everywhere. Help to ensure that the practice of FGM is eradicated, forever, and that women’s human rights are not violated in this way. More than 130 million women, world-wide have been mutilated, just like Khadija.
For further information on the practice of female genital mutilation… go here.
All money will go to the No FGM Australia campaign, which lobbies federal and state politicians, raises young girls’ awareness of their rights and trains frontline professionals in the issues around FGM, including prevention.
The Hoopla says a special thanks to Christopher Sprod, who took all of the beautiful photographs you see here.