I am a member of the Mossi tribe, from Burkina Faso, and in my tribe, all women must undergo circumcision. When I was thirteen years old, I was taken by my aunt to the bush and there I was circumcised. I remember the unbearable pain and how loudly I screamed in agony. I felt like I was going to die.

After the circumcision, I didn’t feel the same. The pain lasted for a long time. But beyond the pain, the circumcision affected my life in many ways that I regret. When my daughter was born, the doctor told me that I had to undergo a C-section instead of a natural birth because of the circumcision. I was terrified and scared that I would lose my child. Knowing that I still suffered the consequences of being circumcised frustrated me, but all I could think about was my child and her health.

One day, my aunt came to my brother’s house to tell me that it was my daughter’s turn to get circumcised. They warned me that if I did not give them permission to take my daughter, they would take her by force. I was terrified and I refused to let this happen to her. All the memories of the pain and agony I suffered came back. I did not want my daughter to suffer the same pain.

My brother told me I needed to leave Burkina Faso because neither of us would be able to prevent my daughter from being circumcised. If I tried to stop it, I would be persecuted. If I tried to live in a different place in Burkina Faso, I would be risking my life because they would look for me. My brother arranged for me to travel to the United States in the hope that I would find safety there. I found my attorney at Lutheran Social Services through a friend in the African community. She worked very hard to make sure that my case was a strong one. She helped me find a doctor to evaluate me and my daughter, and a counselor to talk about everything and prescribe me medicine for the depression I was suffering from.

Both my daughter and I were granted asylum. I can’t explain how I felt that day. I was so relieved and grateful. I knew that I could stay in the United States and be safe, and that I would never have to worry about my daughter being taken from me and suffering the same pain of circumcision that I suffered.