Escaping FGM

FGM_Awareness_1

Submitted by: Ozel Rowland

A local campaigner  fighting against female genital mutilation (FGM) has provided a special conference to the Walthamstow housing service in a bid to raise awareness amongst its staff.

Hibo Wardare, a teaching assistant at Mission Grove Primary School, was invited to talk with Ascham Homes staff about  the practice, which is also known as female circumcision, and how to identify victims or those who may be at risk. As an FGM survivor, she shared   her  own harrowing personal experience as a six-year-old child  in Somalia  and went on to describe the negative psychological effects and long-term health problems FGM has on survivors.

She said: “I believe there  are girls out there who   are  leaving  their families because they don’t want to live with them anymore because of what’s happened.

“They  are seeking help  and for them to go to their local housing and to say they need help, but don’t want to discuss FGM, is huge and so the housing   staff  really  need to understand   why  these girls   are coming to them.”

The mother of  seven,  who  is known for providing the first FGM awareness session to secondary school pupils in the UK at Frederick Bremer School, Walthamstow, in February  this  year, said  that  it  is essential  that  housing  staff across London  receive FGM training  in order to create channels of trust with victims and understand the cultural implications behind the practice.

FGM is  usually  performed on young girls aged from four to six and is a procedure that intentionally alters or removes female genitalia. It is often done to protect a girls’ chastity but can cause irreparable damage and infertility in adulthood.

It is currently still practised by 29 countries and is particularly common  across Africa and the Middle East. It is illegal to carry out FGM in the UK or to send children abroad to have the procedure carried out and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Neighbourhood Manager at Ascham Homes, Raja Khan  said: “With Hibo’s help, our staff were able to ask questions that they could never ask about such a barbaric act before and understand the effects and impact it leaves on its victims.

“On the positive, our staff are now able to signpost survivors to organisations  such  as  the Dahlia Project  and indeed  Hibo  and be mindful when assessing anyone coming to housing fleeing violence, or wanting housing  away from family members that they could be escaping FGM.”

Stella  Creasy,  Labour  MP for Walthamstow,  said:  “It’s  been an honour to work with Hibo over the last few years in promoting and developing her work on tackling FGM and raising awareness across Walthamstow about this practice.

“I’m pleased to see Ascham Homes taking this up and I hope this will be the start of a range of activities to show how  we can all help  end violence against women.”

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