Uui! How the Meru Started Circumcising Girls

How the Meru Started Circumcising Girls
African girl

A-a-aaa! Uui!

You have probably heard Meru women laugh like that. Or you have probably laughed like that yourself. Did you think it was just a laugh? Think again.

Uui was actually a person, a guy who lived in Meru many many years ago, but whose effects are still felt today. And no, not only because he has his own custom laugh, but because of other things.

Uui was rich, dude had thousands of cattle… But no one wanted to marry him. Why? Dude had one of those donda ndugus, an incurable wound. And true to Meru style then, he was told to stay away from the rest of the community and daughters were told to not go close to him. So the dude stayed alone with his cows which kept growing in numbers, the other men wakikula kwa macho.

And then there was this girl who was born sick and lived in bad health. It’s said that she could only be cured by bleeding, and no one wanted to cut her lest they get cursed with bad health too. She was also neglected, kept to herself and as expected, no one wanted to marry her.

Our man Uui met this girl while he tended his livestock, and she tearfully narrated her story. Dry-spell can do anything to anyone… The guy told her he would cure her, he would bleed her. And of all places:

Uui cut off the girl’s clitoris.

I hear the clitoris bleeds, a lot. She bled and bled… And got cured! Indebted to Uui, she agreed to marry him.

Now, naturally, Meru women are not very submissive. Meru women can get pretty worked up and arrogant. But Uui’s wife, because he had cured her, was very submissive and obedient. Again, other men were kulaing kwa macho, wondering how Uui got his wife to be so obedient. They wanted to know the secret.

And the secret they got was, Uui had cut her clitoris. This, good people, became law. All women had to be circumcised… for discipline. And Mrs. Uui became the patron!

Traditional surgeon holds razor blades before carrying out female genital mutilation
Pic: REUTERS/James Akena

So, when the women laugh A-a-aaa! Uui!… it is a shortened version of A-a-aaa! Na Uui nakwire (Uui died). It is actually a consolation for the pain Uui caused women for many generations. You know FGM is practised by some people in Meru, don’t you?

Note: We do not advocate for Female Genital Mutilation or the forceful abuse of women human rights in the modern age. But this is our history, and it needs to be told.


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