Survivors' Stories have the power to end female genital mutilation (FGM)

On 1 February 2019,  the mother of a three year old girl has become the first person in the UK to be found guilty of FGM. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but  no successful prosecutions have taken place until now.

Hawa was not cut when she was a girl after learning the long-lasting consequences of FGM. Through lessons with her family and community she is helping to bring an end to FGM

Hawa was not cut when she was a girl after learning the long-lasting consequences of FGM. Through lessons with her family and community she is helping to bring an end to FGM

On the eve of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), SafeHands calls for more to be done to support survivors and end the harmful practice of FGM. Every day, women and girls are mutilated, violated and even die in the name of this tradition. The survival stories of women and girls are powerful tools to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM.

Survival stories like Hibo’s Story discloses Hibo Wardere’s harrowing journey to find understanding after undergoing FGM at the age of six. Hibo said “My story is not just my own. It is a story of many girls and women around the world and in the UK. Through telling my story, I hope we can reach those girls to let them know they are not alone, that there are people who know their experience and can help.”

Amid the news of the UK’s first prosecution against FGM, survivors have been speaking of the emotional trauma and long-term psychological impact and the urgent need to support women and girls at risk of FGM:

  • Campaigner and survivor Leyla Hussein said she has mixed emotions about the convictions and emphasised the role health professionals can play in safeguarding girls at risk

  • Hibo Wardere described FGM as the cruellest thing for a child to experience

  • father told how his daughters underwent FGM at ages of one and two despite his opposition to the cultural practice.

More than 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM in countries ranging from Ethiopia to England*, Burkina Faso to Bahrain. Nearly 170,000 women and girls are affected by FGM in England and Wales – with half of all newly recorded cases happening in London. New NHS statistics reveal an FGM case is reported every two hours in the UK. FGM has been defended as a cultural or religious practice – but is child abuse, a criminal offence, and an oppression of women and girls with long-term psychological impact.

Nancy Durell Mckenna