SURVIVORS of the "cruel" and "barbaric" practice of female genital mutilation urged everyone in the community to play a role in preventing it happening to the estimated 2,800 girls at risk of the practice in Enfield.
They told a conference of 120 teachers, health workers and police gathered at the Dugdale Centre for the first conference in Enfield about the lifelong traumatising effects of FGM.
Delegates heard how the practice which is illegal in the UK and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years is a form of child abuse.
It is estimated that 2,800 girls under 19 in Enfield are at risk of FGM, with those aged five to 12 at greatest risk, although it can happen to girls of any age and can also be performed on women.
Detective Constable Sarah Wood said under UK law no child or woman can be deemed to give their consent to the practice.
Campaigner Hibo Wardere said: "I can remember it as if it was yesterday. I can remember the smell. They ripped us apart when we were screaming. I was six years old."
She said: "FGM is cruel. FGM is barbaric."
Councillor Ayfer Orhan who is Cabinet member for education, children’s services and protection said: "We must be clear: FGM is a form of child abuse and violence against woman and girls. It’s a violation of human rights and an extreme form of discrimination against women.
"It’s a procedure with no health benefits and one that causes extreme pain, psychological distress and health complications to millions of women worldwide."
She said it was not an easy subject to deal with, and was even harder with young children but that school staff had a role to play and needed to be aware of the risks which some pupils face and to be confident in acting on their concerns.
Parents should also be aware of the medical and psychological risks to their daughters and the legal implications they could face if they allow it to happen.
Enfield’s council leader Doug Taylor said the borough has an FGM Task and Finish Group which brings together agencies to ensure a "robust and effective" approach to FGM.
Anti FGM campaigner Enfield-based Alimatu Dimonekene, who set Project ACEi to end the practice and support women said: "I felt there was a lot of good work happening and people were not aware of everything that is happening."
She organised the event with Enfield’s Safeguarding Team and added: "I was shocked that there are 2,800 girls in Enfield at risk. That is a problem for Enfield. From my experience and passion it’s my mission to try and change this.
"It takes two seconds but it’s a lifetime of pain."
Psychotherapist Leyla Hussein who set up the Dahlia Project to counsel women who have undergone FGM said: "The focus has always been on physical scars but also the psychological scars. This is something that people have to live with."
She said although survivors can’t get rid of it, they can learn how to live with the consequences and many campaign to prevent it happening to others.