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.”