Date of Conferral
Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C), a common practice among Sierra Leonean women, carries significant psychological and physical risks. Prior to this study, a substantial need existed for inquiry of the experiences and belief systems within this cultural group to better understand the effects of FGM/C on women and girls. Guided by feminist theory and the theory of cultural relativism, the goal of this phenomenological study was to review the cultural perspectives and experiences of Sierra Leonean women who underwent FGM/C to investigate their concerns about safety and their perceptions of the practices. In addition, this study explored concerns among Sierra Leonean women about the procedure performed on their daughters and to what they attributed the continued practice of FGM/C. Participants included a purposeful sample of 12 women from Sierra Leone who had experienced FGM/C. Data were collected via in-person, semi-structured interviews and analyzed thematically. Analysis revealed differences in participant definitions of FGM/C, cultural and social aspects of the procedure, personal beliefs and perceptions of the procedures. Results provide new understandings to help health and human rights organizations implement proactive safety measures for these women and girls. Positive social change from this investigation may occur via proper education about FGM/C. Goals include helping women understand the risks associated with the practice and to make their own informed decisions regarding the procedure. Findings revealed that a powerful strategy for protecting women's health and well-being related to FGM/C may be through education on the facts of the procedure.