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Today is International Women’s Day. A chance to raise awareness of the continued daily struggles faced by women and girls across the globe.

FGM is one of the most brutal and physical manifestations of violence against women, and is recognised by the UN to be concentrated in a band of 30 countries across North and Eastern Africa and the Middle East.

But FGM is an international problem, not just a regional one.

Growing migration is an obvious source for the spread of FGM. But it is a mistake to think that it affects only Muslim women from Africa and the Middle East.

Last year the GUARDIAN reported FGM happened to me in white, midwest America.

Cases such as this show the physicality of FGM is a live issue across cultures and backgrounds.

It also undermines arguments about cultural relativism requiring non-practicing communities to mind their own business.

Nimco Ali has spoken this morning on BBC R4 Women’s Hour to discuss how the involvement of women beyond those who suffer directly has brought momentum to the fight against FGM. She argues FGM is overarchingly a gender-based issue.

The particularities of FGM do vary within each instance. But addressing it with the collective voice of women (and men!) has the strength to break down the boundaries that shouldn’t have power over us, and instead raise up the values that underline our common humanity:

Personal freedom and choice, over our own bodies, is a minimum standard. 

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A few pictures from the event hosted by Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo earlier this month

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As you can see, the event was a great success and well attended.

But the fight against FGM is all year round:

DON’T FORGET OUR BUY A BRICK CAMPAIGN IS STILL RUNNING AND IN NEED OF YOUR HELP

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Part of the Government response to FGM, under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, is the Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order (FGMPO).

Since the introduction of the FGMPO in 2015, as part of a broader legal response to FGM, there has been a relatively low uptake in the number of orders granted. In the first three months of availability (July to September 2015) 18 FGMPOs were made.* At the most recent count (July to September 2016) 11 orders were made, although there were 20 applications.**

In contrast, the model for the FGMPO, the Forced Marriage Protection Order, received 80 applications during the latest period with 65 applications made.**

An allowance could be made on the basis that the FMPO was available from 2008, and with time, the FGMPO will become more widely acknowledged and utilised by victims, communities, and authorities alike.

HOWEVER a recent Freedom of Information request by the NSPCC has revealed that all FGMPOs have been issued in England, with Wales failing to secure the implementation of a single protective order.

Although the Welsh population is much smaller than that in England, Wales is not immune to this global problem. A 2015 report estimates that Cardiff has a prevalence rate of 7 per 1000 of the population.***

It is clear that Wales has a lot of work to do, if it wants to seriously engage Welsh communities in the fight against FGM.

For more information, see

“No orders made to protect Welsh girls at risk of FGM” BBC, 19th February 2017

 

* See Family Court Statistics report, July to September 2015.

** See Family Court Statistics report, July to September 2016.

*** Macfarlane, A. and Dorkenoo, E. (2015) Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales: National and Local Estimates

 

 

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A two day workshop earlier this week focused on the dangers of FGM, and Forced or Early Marriage, for girls and women; particularly when it comes to childbirth.

There was a very positive response, with many of the Traditional Birth Attendants keen for further involvement of Beyond FGM in their home villages. There was even support for the idea of a Public Abandonment Ceremony for reformed cutters. This would include some of the Traditional Birth Attendants themselves.

The position of these workers in their communities means they are ideally situated to assist in the prevention of FGM, and to help those for whom it is too late, not only in terms of their health care, but also by notifying the authorities.

As ever, working together with communities exposes the embeddedness of the practice. This week, we have heard of cases of FGM being performed even after death. 

Traditional Birth Attendants have a vital role in the response to FGM. Supporting them is a key element of Beyond FGM’s efforts.

 

 

TBA 1                 TBA 2             TBA 3

 

 

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Gender based violence comes in many forms, but during her current trip to Pokot, it has become increasing clear to Beyond FGM founder, Cath Holland, that FGM and Forced Marriage are not only symptoms of the same problem, but arise again and again as part of an interconnected set of challenges which too many young women are having to face.

These young women and girls do not have the luxury of dealing with the crimes against them as separate and discreet issues. Instead, young girls experience early forced marriage and FGM as overwhelming, messy and complex crises, which for many of us would be incomprehensible during our adult life, never mind as marginalised teenagers.

Yet there is a 15 year old girl whom Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo are extremely concerned about.

This girl was forced in to marriage, became pregnant, was subjected to cutting while pregnant, and consequently required a caesarian section to safely deliver her child.

After becoming a mother, her ‘husband’ continued to abuse her. It is believed this abuse was psychological, and it is possible it was physical also. It is little surprise that, still a child herself, she ran away.

Although taken in by a supporter of Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo, she was forced to flee again when this family feared for their own safety. Their kindness and humanity in offering her shelter was rewarded by the terror inflicted by the ‘husband’ and his gang, believing their lives were in danger. The gang is reported to have appeared, complaining about the number of cows exchanged for the marriage to take place, and making threats.

Her father told the gang to beat the girl when she is found.

It has recently been confirmed that she has been sent back to her forced marriage, and it is with deep sadness that Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo, nor anyone else, has been able to provide this 15 year old mother with sanctuary.

It is cases like these that show how desperate we are to provide such a shelter. Our current project to build a Rescue Centre/Safe House in Pokot is underway.The foundations and walls are ready but we are now appealing for donations to complete the structure and build the roof. Please go to the BUY A BRICK CAMPAIGN page, even the smallest donation will help to make a big difference to vulnerable girls who try to break for freedom, but who lack that safe haven at the end of their journey. It is too late for some. But there are many other girls who can be saved with your help.

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To mark such an important day, Cath and the team are running an awareness event in Muino, Pokot.

In this area, FGM prevalence is estimated at 100%. Finding out that today is market day, meaning that Muino will be busy, is very welcome news. Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo will be doing their best to reach out to as many people as possible. Let’s hope they are greeted with open hearts and minds.

Elsewhere today, you can find out about more about this global day of activism on our FACEBOOK page, as well as by following news and events from around the world at GUARDIAN GLOBAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO END FGM 

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Our friend and brother Mambolea has created this heartfelt song, really worth a watch:

The fight against FGM is for everyone in society, not just the women who are suffering or are at risk.

We all have a part to play

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‘Historical context’ can often act as a device to excuse or justify. Some might use it to argue that we cannot judge days gone by through our own standards.

However, the BBC’s Call the Midwife will soon try to avoid these pitfalls, in it’s look at FGM in the context of Somali women in 1960’s East London, in the upcoming series.

In an interview on yesterday’s Woman’s Hour (BBC R4) the creator of the TV show, Heidi Thomas, discusses how FGM would have been understood and responded to by 1960’s Britain. A clinical, rather than a moral approach is said to be taken by the staff.

This is predicted by the creators to “ruffle some feathers” in the audience.

But a bleak exposure of the medical harm may be no bad thing, if it highlights the extreme pain that can be incurred by women who have been cut, specifically throughout their pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal condition.

If Heidi Thomas is right about how Call the Midwife acts as a conversation starter, this could be an important moment for FGM in the national conscience. While the approach by 1960’s Britain may be hard to swallow, the way this programme is able to lift the curtain on so many ‘taboo’ subjects, for today’s audiences, is incredibly important.

The gentleness and softness of the period-costumes and Queen’s-English nurses allows a subtle introduction of the difficulties which are a feature of the health and social lives of so many women. This clever layering of content in Call the Midwife therefore has the potential to be excellent way to raise both awareness and compassion to UK viewers. Like so many other problems face directly by women, (and ultimately by society as a whole) the hidden nature of the practice of FGM – as affecting the most intimate nature of women and girls, and the way practicing communities can keep it secret within the UK – is half the battle.

BEYOND FGM’s work in Pokot has shown that so much progress can be made once families and friends start to really think and talk about what FGM means for women, their families and their communities.

You can listen to the Woman’s Hour interview with Heidi Thomas here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04psb0q 

The new series of Call the Midwife is due to start next week.

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Here are a few pictures of the Alternative Rite of Passage workshops and ceremonies from Samich, in the Cherangari Hills! The team are hard at work with some amazing people in this community.

arp ceremony in Samich 150 girls arrived for the 5 days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

150 girls have been able to take part in the 5 days of workshops

first day of empowerment for these 150 girls

 

Day one in Samich, with some great talks taking place…

group work culture society tradition 1st day for these girls has gone very well

 

But group work is also very important, and these girls have done very well in this way, talking about Culture, Society and Tradition.

 

Keep checking this page, as well as TWITTER and FACEBOOK for the latest news from Kenya! 

 

 

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Alternative Rites of Passage ceremonies are the central way that Beyond FGM, in partnership with Kepsteno Rotwo, seeks to help women and girls escape the knife. At the same time, it is important to help those for whom it is too late; the women and girls who have already been cut.

Everlyn Cheyech, who is a student nurse/midwife and one of our group members, recently came to the rescue of a young girl who had been cut. As a result she was bleeding, almost to death. The girl had been brought to the health centre where Everlyn works. While her wounds had been cared for at the centre, her haemoglobin level of 3 was not duly acknowledged by other staff, and she was in the process of being discharged.

At this point Everlyn stepped in, and arranged for the girl to be taken 80 km to the Government District Hospital. Here, she was given the care she needed, including blood transfusions and antibiotics. Thanks to Everlyn’s timely actions, this girl survived, and is now on the road to recovery. Nonetheless, she will carry the physical and mental scars of her cutting for the rest of her life.

Beyond FGM visited the County Commissioner last week to discuss this case, which is one of many. The team also visited the girl, who remains in hospital care. Unfortunately, such is the trauma she has been through, the girl refuses to give information about her experience. Her most frequent response is “no” and she is unable to give details of the event itself, such as where the cutting happened, or who was with her. It is now thought that she absconded from the hospital before police were able to speak with her about what happened. Despite it’s prevalence, FGM is a crime in Kenya.

BUY A BRICK

It is for girls who live in fear like this, that our rescue centre is being built. You can read more about this project, and buy a brick to support it’s progress at http://beyondfgm.co.uk/buy-a-brick/

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