Our summer intern Fatin Guled has just completed her A’ levels at Redcliffe Sixth Form in Bristol. She’s been busy the last few years while completing her studies and has a strong passion for campaigning.
In the spirit of getting to know Fatin better she has impressed the purplefish team with her passion for activism on social and cultural subjects, particularly the issue of FGM on which she actively campaigns against and works to raise awareness about.
Here she describes what FGM is and the complex, cultural issues that surround this practice that are often hidden.
We salute your work Fatin – you are a great ambassador for young people and independent young women:
For the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside a group of brilliant women to raise awareness about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Media attention on the issue peaked in February 2014 when Bristol students met with education secretary Michael Gove to demand that every school in the UK have staff who are educated on the issue and that it be included in the curriculum.
Lots of progress has been made in raising awareness, safeguarding girls at risk and supporting women who have been through FGM. Despite the practice being illegal in the UK, hardly any prosecutions have been made to date. Prevalence rates in some parts of the world are at 98% and 60,000 girls under 5 in the UK are at risk.
There is a temptation with issues like FGM, that make people feel uncomfortable or make them face the reality of the inequality women and girls are facing worldwide, to view it as something that does not affect us in the UK. However, there are girls and women at risk or who have already undergone the practice in Europe, America, the UK, or even here in Bristol and ignorance about their circumstances and trauma is part of the reason why help is so inaccessible.
Female Genital Mutilation is the practice of intentionally altering the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. Approximately 100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide (that’s more than double the entire population of the UK) and it is traditionally carried out by older women with no medical training.
Anaesthetics and antiseptic treatment are not generally used and the practice is usually carried out using basic tools such as knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass and razor blades. There are 4 types of FGM.
There are a number of reasons why FGM takes place, which usually include: custom and tradition, religion; in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement, preservation of virginity/chastity, social acceptance, especially for marriage, increasing sexual pleasure for the male and family honour.
The list of reasons probably sounds unconvincing but in a society where you face social exclusion, if you do not have your child cut, and people genuinely believe that it is a religious practice or a woman’s value is decided by how “pure” she is perceived to be, FGM will happen.
The consequences of FGM include urine retention, infection, severe pain, shock, psychological damage and difficulties in menstruation. The best way to understand the consequences of the practice is to listen to survivors’ stories:
• A 25-year-old female genital mutilation (FGM) victim from Gambia, now living in Scotland, tells how she was mutilated when she was eight years old. She says her vagina was sewn up in an effort to control her sexually. The mutilation blocked her menstruation and destroyed her hopes of having a normal sex life. She describes how her sister died in 2008 in childbirth due to FGM.
• Afusat Saliu, 31, and her two children aged one and three, faced deportation to Nigeria in April. Saliu, who was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child, has appealed to the Home Office on the grounds that her daughters could face FGM if sent back to their home country. But her appeal was rejected. Nigeria has the highest number of genitally mutilated women in the world.
For more information, visit the Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development (FORWARD) website:
http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/ or follow on Twitter @FORWARDUK @FORWARD_Youth @empowering4 @TheGirlGen @DaughtersofEve for updates on the many campaigns to #EndFGM