Female genital mutilation, FGM for short and otherwise known as female circumcision, is the ritual of removing some or all of the external female genitalia. It is often practiced for cultural reasons in regions including Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It’s an explicitly known fact that Somalia has the highest prevalence of girls aged 15-49 that have undergone FGM, with a 98% mutilation rate. In the UK, FGM was made illegal in 1985, and in 2003 it was made illegal for girls to be taken abroad with the intent of being mutilated. So, you can imagine how shocked I was, as a 16-year-old female living in London to find out that 28 per 1000 women aged 15-49 in London have been mutilated. Perhaps what I found even more surprising was the lack of knowledge and understanding my peers had on the matter; many didn’t even know what FGM was or what it meant.
In the UK we are at a stage where bringing FGM to an end is a growing reality, and charities such as Daughters of Eve and the NSPCC are a huge support in helping this, but how are we expected to put an end to something that we do not know about? If education of FGM and its profusion in the UK were prioritized, then we may actually be able to stop this torture in the UK, and potentially bring down the rates of FGM in other countries with a higher prevalence. Through educating not only teenage girls, but also boys on this matter we can help to bring these issues out into the open, eliminate the stigma around it and make it a less ‘out of sight, out of mind’ matter. In turn, this will help to promote the aforementioned charities and bring us evermore closer to the goal of eradicating FGM in the UK.
So, when people have been educated on the topic of FGM how can they use that knowledge for the greater good? Of course there are the obvious answers; donate to charities such as Daughters of Eve and the NSPCC, set up fundraisers and continue to ‘spread the word’ on FGM in order to raise as much awareness as possible. Eighteen year old June Eric-Udorie, is an FGM Ambassador for Plan UK where she advocates about women’s rights and the dangers of FGM in the UK. She is hoping to follow in the footsteps of giants such as Efua Dorkenoo OBE, Nimco Ali and Leyla Hussein, and encourage others to do the same. Now is the time for change. Remember, just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.