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International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Today, February 6 marks the 10th annual Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. It’s an awful thing to have to commemorate. According to the World Health Organization, about 140 million women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM–the vast majority (about 101 million) in Africa but is being carried out globally; from Iran to Northern Ireland.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumciser’s, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths.

Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types.

  1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
  2. Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
  3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
  4. Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Here at Pain Concern, and like many health and wellbeing organisations we take a zero tolerance stance towards FGM. We were also awarded funding from Rosa: the UK Fund for Women and Girls to create a project and raise awareness of the long term effects of female genital mutilation (FGM) on survivors, including the often overlooked issue of persistent pain in later life. As a result, we created ‘Protect our girls’, in which Janet Graves (a former producer of BBC Women’s Hour) hears from FGM survivors (including Mojatu’s Valentine Nkoyo) and the specialist midwives and health-care professionals treating them about this culturally-embedded practice and the steps needed to uproot it.

Paul’s entry was engaging throughout, but it included a ‘stop what you’re doing’ moment with Airing Pain – a podcast for Pain Concern about Female Genital Mutilation. This incredibly powerful production dealt with the subject with great honesty and sensitivity. This is really important programme making.

The judges notes from the 2015 Radio Productions Awards in which our producer Paul Evans won the Best Nations & Regions Producer prize for his work with Pain Concern

Key Facts:

  • Over 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
  • If current trends continue, about 86 million additional girls worldwide will be subjected to the practice by 2030.
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
  • FGM cause severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

For more information on other charities and organisations that deal more specifically with FGM please have a look at these websites:

  • The Majatu Foundation: The group led by Valentine Nkoyo works with young people in media oriented activities by training, engaging and enabling them to progress towards employment, further education and volunteering thus improving their lives. They also run and support girls and women empowerment initiatives both in the UK and Africa.
  • The Girl Generation: A global campaign that supports the Africa-led movement to end FGM.
  • FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development): By working through partnerships in the UK, Europe and Africa the campaign aims to transform lives through tackling discriminatory practices that affect the dignity and wellbeing of girls and women.
  • FGM Aware: A Scottish based anti FGM group which features SARA’S STORY, a short animated film which has been developed in consultation with women survivors of FGM, and experienced practitioners.
  • Roshni: A Glasgow based group working extensively with minority ethnic communities and currently does a range of work related to FGM in Scotland and regularly collaborate with the Scottish Government, third sector organisations and leading academics on this issue.

We still have a long way to go, but this harmful practice is on its way out, though not soon enough. #EndFGM.

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