Human Rights Watch Fest ’23: Koromousso, Big Sister 

In Koromousso, Big Sister, co-directors, Habibata Ouarme and Jim Donovan, give us a peek into the journeys of three women who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and are reclaiming their autonomy through reconstructive surgery. Ouarme is featured in the film, acting as the Big Sister (Koromousso) to these women, having had her own reconstructive surgery years ago. She brings a sympathy that only experience gives to the women, and indeed, to this film, conducting research and travelling across countries to tell the women’s stories and to be present to help during surgery and recovery.

This film illuminates and humanizes a cultural phenomenon that is shrouded in mystery within the communities in which it is practiced, because of the taboo around women’s bodies, and within other communities because, “it doesn’t affect them.” This film highlights how everyone who fights against FGM navigates the protectiveness that cultures have of their practices, no matter how harmful, and the inexperience that other communities have in dealing with people suffering from the effects of said practices, as they work towards achieving wholistic rights for women.

Then, there’s the spiritual aspect that is usually woven into the reasons for the harmful practices in the first place. Psychotherapist Papa Ladjike Diouf says in the film that women’s bodies are often associated with Satan and seen as entry points for Satan to come in and upset the balance. This sentiment, if believed by women, teaches them that their bodies are innately evil, and will be seen as legitimate grounds to do anything to keep that evil under control. This is a sentiment that I think is not only an unfair weight to place on a person, but an affront to their Creator, and simply untrue.

This is the work that Ouarme, and others like her, have before them. With this film, she acts as our big sister and guides us into the first step to making change: conversation.

For more information about Koromousso, Big Sister or Human Rights Watch Film Festival ’23, click here.

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