"back home, we never talk about this kind of thing"
"I come from a country called Eritrea. In Eritrea we call circumcision 'girizat'. The word is a slang term for both the circumcision of boys and the female genital mutilation of girls.
"Circumcision is a religious thing for boys. For girls it is a cultural thing, and it involves a girl's vagina being cut in different ways in a dangerous procedure. I didn't know this until I came to the UK, as I was too young to remember having it done myself.
"Back home, we never talk about this kind of thing. It is strange to speak about it now.
"In my culture, it's believed that when the vagina is cut, the desire to have sex is cut as well. My culture believes that sex is only something a woman does with her husband to have children.
"Most people in Eritrea think that if a girl is cut, she will grow up to be a good girl - that she will not bring shame on her family and she will marry well. If a girl is not cut, they think she will grow up to be a 'slut' - a girl who thinks about sex and will not be satisfied by one man.
"Most people feel this way in my country and it is only those who are educated that disagree with cutting. My mother used to warn me that bad things would happen to a girl who was not cut.
"I was cut when I was only a few months old so it is something I have no memory of. The first time that I became aware that I had been cut was when I overheard my parents fighting. My father was an educated and modern man who disagreed with the belief and culture of cutting. My mother was from a traditional family and from a different community of people to my father. My father blamed my mother for my 'girizat'.
"My mother had taken me to be cut while my father was away on business, as she knew he would not have allowed it. I was cut and sewn up when I was just a few months old, and when my father found out he was furious.
"The first time I heard about cutting was from overhearing my parents fight about it, which they did throughout my childhood. I am not angry with my mother for taking me to get cut. My mother is a traditional person and hasn't been educated about it. She thought she was doing the best for me.
"I believe cutting is something that should be stopped. It is a disgusting practice that many people only do because they believe that the stories around it are true and they are uneducated. I do not think that people really understand the problems which female genital mutilation can cause for girls. I didn't understand myself until I was told.
"I look ahead and see problems in my future with any relationships that I choose to have because I'm afraid that sex will hurt. My periods are painful too and I've been told it will be very painful to give birth.
"I think that education is the most important thing in helping people to change their views about cutting. I think they should have more information on female genital mutilation in clinics. Nurses give talks to all people on AIDS back home, and they need to do the same thing with female genital mutilation to tell people the truth. If you teach people that they can still keep their culture without mutilating girls, this would be better.
"When I am with my friends from Eritrea like me, we still don't mention female genital mutilation. My friends and other young people will talk about boyfriends and sex, but they are embarrassed to talk about cutting, even though it is something that we have all been through. I've never been told about a girl having female genital mutilation in the UK as we don't talk about this kind of stuff."
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