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

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

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power