Girls from the UK are being subjected to illegal genital mutilation, despite the devastating consequences, a University of Leicester postgraduate student claims.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other non-medical injury to the female genital organs. FGM is carried out for cultural and religious traditions, but is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Sadiyo Siad is spearheading a campaign to highlight the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) through a national conference to be held at the University of Leicester on 18 June 2011 to highlight the impact on victims and to provoke local and international discussion on the issue.
The event is organised by Eva Organization for Women (EOW) and supported by the University of Leicester and various community groups in Leicester. The conference is open to the public but people should first register on EOW website at the link below.
Speakers from the medical and legal professions, local communities, religious scholars, human rights experts, will provide different perspectives on the human impact of FGM. A key feature of the conference is testimonies from the victims of FGM, who tell of the mental and physical anguish caused by the procedure and the lasting damage FGM inflicts
Sadiyo said: "FGM creates massive health problems for women experiencing it. While illegal, FGM is a highly sensitive cultural issue that is rarely discussed in the everyday media and so not enough light is shed on the consequences of the procedure to reduce the practice. This is one of the reasons why FGM still occurs. Most parents who allow their daughters to have this procedure sincerely believe that it is in their daughters' best interests - it is seen as more hygienic and protecting them from false accusations that can lead them to never being able to marry and have a family. We don't want to blame - we want to inform. I sincerely believe that when our communities are made aware of the devastating consequences of FGM they will see that it is in their daughters' best interests NOT to practice FGM."
Sadiyo said that in February of this year, the UK Government set out clear guidelines on tackling and preventing FGM. Unfortunately, after such high hopes were raised, following the publication of the recent guideline revisions the government has abolished the Whitehall post of FGM co-ordinator, leaving charities worried that raising awareness among professionals at a local level, where the issue is often still not understood, will be compromised. There are still girls who are cut in the UK and other European countries, also Australia and North America at large, while other girls may be taken abroad in the summer holidays and mutilated.
Sadiyo added: "This conference aims to raise a higher level of public awareness of FGM and to allow the voices of women, who either have been a victim of FGM or are at risk of undergoing the procedure, to be heard. In addition, the conference aims to build a lasting dialogue between the communities who practise FGM and religious scholars, health care professionals and the local authorities. The time has come to move forward and face the reality. FGM is a painful reality and we need to educate ourselves and those whom we live with, so that FGM will never be practised again."
Comfort Momoh (a UK midwife and FGM Consultant) said: "Young girls in the UK come to me and say: 'we don't understand why they are doing this to us. They are supposed to be our loved ones, our mother, aunts and grandmothers'." Comfort also said: "A lot of young girls don't know the types and differences of FGM. Some of them don't even know that they've had it done."
Salado, (a survivor of FGM), said: "Different people have tried to raise FGM awareness but nothing like this has ever been done before in Leicester where large FGM-practising communities are based. Having this conference at the University of Leicester where representatives from different sectors are under the same roof to make dialogue and to educate in order to eradicate FGM is revolutionary for us. Our community need not shy away from the fact that we need to be educated."
Dr Primrose Freestone, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, has been helping Sadiyo organise the FGM conference. She said: "At the University of Leicester we believe strongly in supporting our students, not only in terms of their research, but also in activities of wider importance to society. I am very proud of the work that Sadiyo has been pioneering to raise the public awareness of FGM, and I share with her the hope that this conference will open up a community dialogue that will finally lead to the end of FGM."
Birgit Lewis, the Student Volunteering Co-ordinator at the University of Leicester said: "The University's Enterprising Volunteers project set out to help students, with a burning passion for a community issue, to enable them to realise their idea. It is a privilege to work with students so inspiring and passionate as Sadiyo who have the courage to spearhead a campaign on a sensitive issue such as FGM."