In England and Wales alone 137,000 women and girls have been reportedly affected by FGM. There is no research on how many girls are at risk. Globally, the number of women that have been affected is over a staggering 200 million. Next week we kick off the 2019 #EndFGM campaign alongside Pink Protest, Zac Goldsmith, and international FGM activist, Nimco Ali. Find out more here.
Despite FGM being illegal, there have been no convictions. This Friday (February 1st) MP’s are voting on whether or not to amend the Children’s Act to include FGM. We spoke to Nimco ahead of the event on why it’s so important this bill goes through. Sign the petition here.
How did you begin your FGM activism journey?
I never wanted to be an activist, even if I have been fighting for the voice I have today since I was born and I for sure never wanted to be an FGM activist. But in 2006 I found myself in a room with a group of school girls who could have been my little sisters. They opened up about their FGM to me and I knew I could not look away. I had been dismissed when I was their age and now I was the adult they were seeking help from. I did a lot of work under the radar until 2012 when I did my first public interview with the Evening Standard. I never thought that one article would lead to me today being an international activist and seeking to protect 70 million girls from FGM but it did. I wanted the world to know that we could end FGM and that I was and am a survivor not a victim.
Why is including FGM in the Children’s Act is so important?
The Children’s Act is the template for how we seek to protect children in the UK and in not including FGM we are saying at this horrific form of VAWG (violence against women and girls) is not child abuse. We are telling girls like my niece and others that we will not use all the resources we have to protect them and that they don’t matter. That is not just unacceptable it’s also hurtful to women like me who were let down as children.
A lot of people think this isn’t a British problem, but it is a very British problem – can you tell us why?
The girls at risk of FGM are British, they were born here, go to school here and have British accents. I am British, my vagina is British and it needed the same level of protection as everyone else but sadly it did not get it and maybe it’s because I was brown. But we need to get over the idea that because girls are born to people from different communities they are not British.
What else can be done to change the cultural attitudes around FGM?
We need to talk more about the issue and accept it as child abuse and nothing else. We need women from across the UK to stand together and say that FGM has to end or as I like to say keep your “mitts off my muff”.
Find out more about the #EndFGM campaign here.