Hibo Wardere is a Somalia-born British woman. Aged 6 years old she was subjected to type 3 FGM, the most extreme form of cutting.
Fahma Mohamed is a Bristol teenager who together with her friends and teacher famously worked with Integrate UK to take a stance against FGM by singing and rapping.
I am proud of these women and others in my country who have overcome the stigma of FGM, and campaign to end the practice whilst also fighting racism and Islamophobia.
FGM is a totally unacceptable practice, and in order to bring it to an end, we must understand the complexity of the phenomenon.
FGM is a part of a continuum of violence against women. It is an extreme manifestation of patriarchy, but it is not the only one. In order to eradicate FGM, it is important to view it as a form of violence against women and girls, and as one of the multiple avatars of society’s policing of women’s bodies and sexuality.
FGM must also be understood as a cultural practice often viewed as beneficial for the victim. FGM is more common in families where the parents have a low educational background. This demonstrates the importance of empowering women not only when it comes to sexual and reproductive health, but also from an economic, political and educational perspective. Involvement in political and social processes is always beneficial, but it holds particular relevance when it comes to ending ALL forms of violence against women and girls.
Finally, we must bear in mind that FGM is practiced in many countries, including inside Europe. In the UK, many girls are at risk of falling victim of mutilation. It is time the EU and its Member States embrace a real and viable strategy to end FGM on their own territory and therefore the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention is our best hope. We must join up the dots and understand the reasons for all forms of violence against women and girls.