Photographing two friends on Susuni Mountain

Studying, while her elders have a meeting about FGC, Susuni village, near Tarime, Tanzania. July, 2018.

The two young women in the photograph, What Was Ours, were still at school. Here, one of them continued doing her homework while her community elders and a number of anti-female genital cutting activists discussed traditional and changing practices and the impact these were having on the lives of women.

This young woman told me that when she was taken, along with her friend, to be cut, she ran away. I am now accepted back into the community, she said, but only because my parents told everyone that they agreed with my decision. But now, with her father dead, she is supported just by her mother, and one of her uncles. Her uncles disapproved of her unwillingness to get cut. And she is engaged.

Her friend was cut.

These are complex situations, and as I listened to both women, barely fourteen years old, talk about their experiences, I could not help but wonder at their bravery, their bewilderment, and an awareness that they, along with their community, were on the edge of change. One fear, perhaps, being exchanged for another.

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