Female Genital Mutilation survivors working with Fixers have shared their harrowing testimonies in a film designed to promote understanding and awareness among midwives.
The film, which was commissioned with the help of Public Health England, coincides with new NHS guidance issued on the physical signs of FGM, which is the ritual removal of some or all of a woman’s external genitalia.
Leyla Hussein, an FGM survivor, says: ‘I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.
‘It wasn’t until the health professionals challenged me on it. By then my daughter was two months old.
‘It’s quite scary that many health professionals wouldn’t dare ask FGM survivors like myself whether they’ve gone through it or not.
‘Neither my midwife or consultant said anything even though I had a scar.
‘Later, I met a practice nurse who’d had some training and she asked me questions. I talked about how I have panic attacks every time I have a smear test.’
According to the NHS, an estimated 137,000 women in the UK are affected by FGM, although campaigners believe the true extent is unknown because it is not spoken about.
Anti FGM campaigner Hoda Ali says: ‘Either they are being cut here, or they are being taken back home.’
Ms Ali describes how she started experiencing pain every day after she was cut in her village in Somalia when she was seven-years-old.
She says: ‘I want people to know about the long term consequences. I can’t have my own children – it will affect me as long as I live.’
Najma, whose real name has not been used, was also cut in Somalia when she was 11-years-old.
She says: ‘I now live in Sheffield. It wasn’t until I came to the UK that I questioned what I’d gone through as people don’t talk about it openly.’
The 19-year-old launched a campaign through Fixers to try and end support for FGM, stating that some immigrant communities in the UK still follow a blind tradition.
She says: ‘If people start talking about the issue, they will bring a big change in our communities and our societies.’
According to the women interviewed by Fixers, girls continue to be subjected to FGM because it is deeply entrenched in cultures and traditions.
Heather Nelson, CEO of Black Health Initiative, says: ‘FGM is carried out by a number of communities in the belief that it either makes the woman cleaner or it curbs their sexuality or it’s part of a transition from being a girl into womanhood.’
Hiba Wasarme, who is also campaigning to end FGM through Fixers, says the only way to end the practice, which is carried out from generation to generation, is through education.
She says: ‘Through education, through talking to friends, through understanding the medical side of things, it has helped me to make sure I don’t carry out this act.’
Rachel Jay-Webster, programme manager from Public Health England, says: ‘Fixer's powerful FGM film short will act as an awareness raising tool whilst enhancing professional vigilance around the subject area.
‘The piece also puts into context the part communities need to play in addressing this form of abuse.’
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.