Victims of FGM and charities that fight against it must be involved in Government eradication efforts

Decades of activism underpin this new drive against female circumcision

Share
Related Topics

Today, on International Women’s Day, David Cameron is set to announce the largest international investment ever to fight Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Earlier this week Lynne Featherstone MP laid out ambitious plans to eradicate FGM within a generation. But this Government initiative - a hugely welcome one - must not forget the long-running efforts of charities and the international diaspora here at home.

FGM, as Featherstone recognises, is not a problem confined to Africa. It is thought to affect up to 140 million girls and women worldwide, with 24,000 girls at risk each year in the UK.

While Governmental support and funding is an essential component of efforts to combat FGM, it's vital to remember that the statements released this week are a response to decades of activism on the part of international charities and organisations.

National and international policy provides a legislative framework to be used as a tool to abolish FGM. But alone it is not sufficient. Leyla Hussein, who comes from a FGM practicing community and runs the prevention charity Daughters of Eve, asks that the government invite wider consultation from those who have worked against FGM . “Speak to women like me", she says, "I know what I’ve gone through." Hussein worries that "frequently victims of FGM are used just to tell the story, but not as part of the decision making process".

Nevertheless, the Government's statements this week will no doubt help provide personal suffering with a political platform.

They will bring intimate issues, frequently shrouded in taboo and silence, into the public arena and allow women the opportunity to articulate their own thoughts and feelings. Take for example Madina, who appears in The Cutting Tradition, a film by FGM charity SafeHands for Mothers:  “After I saw the suffering my daughter had to go through", she says "I decided not to circumcise my granddaughters.”

Voices like Madina's tell us important things. They make clear this is not an issue that can be subsumed beneath anxieties about upsetting relative cultural values.

The UK government has been wary of being accused of modern-day colonialism under the guise of international development, as Lynne Featherstone admits: “‘FGM has been considered too taboo and, frankly, too difficult to tackle.” But FGM is a child protection issue and a question of violence against women. The government must - and according to international development secretary Justine Greening will - provide programmes that address the complexity of the issue.

For the roots of FGM are complex and numerous. It needs to be understood in context. In the developing world the practice is associated with child marriage and limited female education and economic independence.

That's why the holistic approach of the programmes announced to coincide with International Women’s Day is so laudable. These programmes include a new partnership with the World Bank to give women access to and control of economic resources in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as issuing guidelines for teachers, social workers and NHS staff here in the UK. Let’s hope that the government makes good on its promise that policy engages constructively with the women who have been victim of FGM and the girls who are at risk, and do as Leyla Hussein implores: “You have this legislation, now use it.”

Agnes Arnold-Forster works for the charity SafeHands for Mothers

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there