17-year-old Fahma Mohamed is on a mission to ensure teachers and parents are informed about horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM). Mohamed is currently working with the Guardian to urge the British government to do more when it comes to FGM.
“If every single headteacher was given the right information, we could reach every single girl who is at risk of FGM,” said Fahma. “We could convince these families not to send their daughters abroad and help those girls at risk.”
An estimated 66,000 women and girls in the UK have been victims of FGM.
According to government figures more than 20,000 British girls are thought to be at risk of being cut every year but, despite previous government promises to stop FGM, experts have warned that girls are not only still being taken abroad to be cut during the holiday “cutting season”, but are also being mutilated in Britain.
Medical groups, trade unions and human rights organisations estimate that there were 66,000 UK victims of FGM in the UK and more than 24,000 girls under the age of 15 were at risk. Victims can be as young as just a few weeks old.
Campaigners have called for better data on how many victims there are in the UK. The government responded on Wednesday night with an announcement that hospitals will begin keeping records of how many of their patients have undergone FGM.
The Guardian spoke to Manika, who was eight years old when she was mutilated in the Gambia. She is now 25 and lives in Scotland. “It really hurt. It’s like taking a knife and cutting someone’s flesh,” she said. After suffering physical complications, she is now terrified of having sex. “I can’t let my body move properly so that I can do it. I still have this at the back of my mind … it makes me feel scared.”
For her, the consequences are lifelong, and catastrophic. “After I saw the blade, I knew they would definitely hurt me,” she said. “This is just like you’re taking somebody’s life. It’s just like you’re taking a gun and shooting somebody to death. It’s just like it feels for me.”
Experts said some families, put off by expensive air travel, were clubbing together to pay for cutters to travel to Britain to mutilate their girls in “cutting parties”.
Mohamed and the Guardian started a petition on Change.org to make sure their voices are heard: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/educationgovuk-tell-schools-to-teach-risks-of-female-genital-mutilation-before-the-summer-endfgm