By Anna Smith
A SOUTH Lakes midwife on a mission to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya is fundraising for a rescue centre for young girls.
Cath Holland, from Grange-over-Sands, whose work has saved around 1,000 young Kenyan women from the brutal procedure, says the centre will provide a safe haven for those who do not want to be ‘cut’ but have nowhere else to turn.
“Not only is it cruel and painful but it’s recognised as a form of torture,” Cath told the Gazette, from Kenya, where she has travelled with her charity, Beyond FGM.
“It’s against the human rights of the girls. They need somewhere to turn where this won’t happen to them.”
She explained that the practice is illegal in Kenya but the law is not enforced in many rural areas.
Earlier this year Cath visited a family whose daughter was cut twice – the second time held down by her brothers – which caused the pregnant 17-year-old to bleed to death.
Now she hopes to build the centre in Pokot, in the Karamoja region of Kenya, so other young women will not have to endure the same fate.
It is estimated it will cost around £20,000 to build the centre and run it for a year, and around £10,000 each year after that.
The money will pay for 50 young women to be fed, clothed, accommodated and educated.
“It’s not just a cruel procedure,” continued Cath. “Girls die from it and it has to be stopped. The girls need somewhere else they can go.”
It is estimated that between 100million and 140million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM.
The process involves them having their genitalia removed, usually in their teens, and then what is left is sewn together.
When they get married the stitches are then pulled apart with an animal horn.
The effects of FGM can include haemorrhage, shock, sepsis, psychological trauma and even death.
Cath, who works at Helme Chase maternity unit, Kendal, began campaigning against the custom after witnessing a cutting ceremony 20 years ago in Kenya.
Since then she has carried out several ‘alternative rite of passage’ ceremonies in the country, which have saved around 1,000 girls from having to undergo FGM.
And earlier this month her work took her to Nairobi with national newspaper, the Guardian, where she met secretary-general of the UN, Ban-Ki Moon
“It was quite amazing to meet him,” she said.
“Hopefully him speaking out about it will encourage individuals to take notice and follow it up with action and enforcement of the law.”
To help fund the rescue centre visit www.justgiving.com/beyondfgm