NANYUKI, Kenya (WOMENSENEWS) — Even though it was five years ago, I remember the first time I met my grandmother like it was yesterday. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this great event and I was eager to find out the secret about my grandmother that I felt my mother was hiding. I had a hunch that she would finally let the cat out of the bag.

Even before we arrived in Kajiado, my mother’s native home 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from my home in Meru, there was much to do to prepare for the journey. We packed our clothes, made sure we left the house in order and departed. When we arrived at my grandmother’s place after our six hour journey, we were greeted by my grandmother and several women in traditional “shukas” ululating while singing traditional songs. A few women led me hurriedly to a hut, at the far end of the homestead. My mother was taken to another hut on the opposite far end. Thinking it was just one of the traditions, I followed them quietly.

Inside the hut were five girls, whom I later found out were my distant cousins. They sat together quietly, consumed in their thoughts. I sat on a small bed in the corner. One of the girls who looked about my age walked over and asked my name. Then she asked if I was also going to undergo circumcision just like they were. That question gave me a rude shock. I was aware the act caused a lot of pain because I had heard of it from friends and read about it in books. She told me she had an escape plan and invited me to join her.

As soon as she said this, two huge women walked in and took one of the girls out. They didn’t shut the door all the way behind them so we took the chance to sneak out. We tried to convince the other three girls to come with us but they were too scared. When we got outside we ducked under the nearby bush and took to our heels towards the nearby forest.

An hour and half later we reached to a homestead and met an old grandma. My cousin told me that the grandma was believed to be a witch in that area. She welcomed us and ushered us to sit on traditional stools. She offered us food and led us to a small bed in the corner and two blankets to keep us warm. We spent the night there and the following day, she took us to some ladies in official clothes and told them why we were there. Before she left she told us that the only reason she was considered a witch was that she has saved so many girls’ lives from the inhumane act of circumcision.

We both thanked her and went with officially dressed women to a home about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. The house was filled with many girls our age. They smiled as they welcomed us to their home. They told us that that was going to be our new home and that we should count ourselves lucky. I have not been in touch with my family since I left Kajiado. It is painful to know that my grandma was the ringleader of the FGM movement in her town. She thought of it as a way to shape our behavior.

Many other girls have been brought to this safe house, among them were three girls who I saw in the room before I escaped. I’m fascinated that we all managed to get out of the trap and am happy that we are all safe. While I miss my family, not seeing them is a small price to pay to help end FGM. I wish more girls who were forced to undergo the harmful practice would speak out against it.