The PRACTICE of Female Genital Mutilation is a “war on women”, an FGM survivor told a packed conference room on Friday.
Alimatu Dimonekene is the founder of Project ACEi, a charity based in Enfield that works to protect women and girls from the practice.
It is estimated that 140 million girls in parts of west and east Africa, Asia and the Middle East have been subjected to the abusive practice where their genitalia is sliced, removed and sometimes repositioned in an attempt to make sexual intercourse in later life as painful as possible for them.
The cutting of girls is often performed by women using rudimentary, unsterilised razor blades and without anaesthetic for their victims.
In Enfield it is estimated that 3,000 girls in borough are at risk of being subjected to FGM and over 2,000 are living with the consequences of the practice.
The world health organisation details the litany of ways in which the practice can destroy women’s health for the rest of their lives with incontinence, infertility, death in childbirth, and long term excruciating pain all side-affects from the mutilation.
To mark international zero tolerance day for FGM Alimatu organised the conference in the Dugdale Centre on Friday February 6 where campaigners on the issue spoke to delegates on what can be done to eradicate the practice.
Speaking to the packed room in the Dugdale Centre she said: “Why FGM is performed in communities is complicated. It is about love, it is about belonging, most communities rely on marriage and in some places it is seen that you have to have had this to get married.
“I call FGM a war on women’s genitals, it is an abhorrent violence against women and girls.
“FGM is a precursor to child and forced marriage. It also impacts on economic growth. For example, a girl aged three is subjected to FGM. When she is 16 she is forced to marry. So she is taken out of school, so has no education, no way to improve her life, she has children at a young age, those children then grow up with a mother who doesn’t have an education, and then the cycle starts to repeat,” she said.
Also speaking to the delegates was the MP for Edmonton and junior shadow minister for women and equalities, Kate Osamor.
The MP has campaigned in Westminster for better healthcare for women detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre, many of whom have been subjected to the practice.
She spoke of a recent parliamentary trip to Senegal, a country in West Africa where FGM is now officially illegal, but where entrenched cultural attitudes mean that the problem is still ongoing.
She told delegates: “FGM is a crime, it is a shaming crime that means it is often under-reported.
“As the member of parliament for Edmonton and a junior shadow minister for women and equalities I will be making sure the issue is on the agenda of government and we must never forget the victims in our community.”