My right, my worth! A call for Zero FGM

As an activist fighting to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) it can be difficult to face the reality that in many of the communities I visit in my country, as a female I would be at risk of FGM if I actually lived there.

As a FGM activist I know how it feels, I understand it. It happens to girls just like me at any time, any moment. It’s a traditional ideology and it must be stopped! I choose to voice out the call for action that through breaking the barriers against traditions, customs and norms that lead to FGM. 

About 800 girls were subjected to FGM in northern Tanzania in January 2017. Despite the police crackdown to stop the practice - which affects millions of girls in East Africa - still only twelve women have been arrested on suspicion of having carried out the ritual of FGM. As an activist, seeing cases like this I sometimes feel my work is not enough - but it can only be enough if there is a strong and bolder unity with fellow activists and organisations in the community.

FGM affects an estimated 140 million girls and women across Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia. It’s seen as a gateway to marriage and a way of preserving purity - but what is the value of purity if it means death, maternal health complications, and psychological problems? A girls right and worth needs to be protected and young people can be the core to end FGM!

As a young person they are various ways to help end Female Genital Mutilation:

Starting an Advocacy Campaign in your community or country. You can influence key decision makers to implement existing FGM laws more effectively, or to create legislation in countries which don’t yet have it. For example, in the Government of Tanzania’s 2015/2016 National Demographic Health Survey, rates of FGM have reduced from 15% in 2010 to 10% in 2015/16. This is a significant change, yet the numbers of FGM survivors still tally high. The point is that young people should not let the figures judge their rights to advocate for ending FGM.

Youth For Change Tanzania advocating for an end to FGM in 2016 [Credit: Youth For Change]

Youth For Change Tanzania advocating for an end to FGM in 2016 [Credit: Youth For Change]

Working in coalition with organizations that focus on ending FGM: including adopting a more holistic approach to enable girls at risk seek shelter in safe houses in the community. For example, the Masanga Center Safe House rescues girls at risk in northern Tanzania - supported by Children’s Dignity Forum and United Nations Population Fund, it has managed to save 1000+ girls from undergoing the cut.

Petrider and Nahom speak to decision makers London.

Petrider and Nahom speak to decision makers London.

Young people’s representation in high-level international conferences on FGM such as the recent the Pan-European Conference on Tackling FGM in Schools by FORWARD UK, or the #BanFGM conference which took place in Rome, Italy this year. Campaign groups, United Nations (UN) officials and government ministers discuss how to end the practice and to focus their attentions beyond Africa, where preventative measures have so far been concentrated. It’s important for young people to attend such events top ensure their voice are heard.

These are just a few of the ways young people can help fight FGM. Do you want to do something to end FGM right now? Take a look at this ‘people powered’ map helping young people better access the Mugumu Centre’s services. You can help them in mapping the local area, and help girls escape FGM from your own home.