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On the third of September, Nottingham Trent University played host to the Mojatu Ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Together international conference. Bringing together many influential international delegates. The conference focused on how FGM plays a major role as a right of passage ceremony for many young girls in many African and Asian cultures and how this cultural practice is not only damaging emotionally to a young girl but also physically scaring. Though I knew little about FGM. This conference gave me more knowledge of how girls as young as eight undergo this practice not only for social standing, as a girl who has undergone FGM is a more likely candidate to get married, but also as a way to control a girl’s sexuality.
Many of the influential speakers included Valentine Nkoyo, Director of the Mojatu Foundation and Chair of Nottingham Community FGM steering Group of Maasai origin and Hana Gibremedhen of Ethopian origin. Both underwent FGM at a young age and are living with the consequences of this dangerous practice until today and are now at the fore front as activist campaigning to bring an end to FGM.
During the conference, I attended the Language, Arts and Culture workshop which was headed by Dr. Adebayo Adebisi. In this, I learned that FGM is used as a status symbol. For example, in countries such as Sierra Leone in the Bundu society, the deeper the cut the higher in society the woman.
Another speaker during the workshop was Joyce Wambura of the Kuria people of Kenya. She talked about Challenging FGM Practices in Kenya using Language. She explained that amongst the Abakuria people the songs that they sing during an FGM ceremony describe the girl and soon-to-be-woman as a rock, the sun or other positive adjectives and for those women who are uncircumcised, they would be bestowed negative adjectives. She talked about how we should find a way to replace the circumcision of girls with a much safer alternative to mark a girl coming into womanhood.
It saddens me that in this day and age, a girl’s sexuality is being controlled from such a young and vulnerable age and that it is not only circumcision that is used to control her sexuality. Not only that but that circumcision is used to increase a girl’s value in society when it comes to finding her a husband.
This conference really highlighted to me how important we should raise the issue on FGM and focus more on women’s rights.
It is not only women who should be at the fore front of these campaign but men as well as they are the leaders of the tribes that participate in FGM. By making them understand that this practice is harming their daughters, nieces or cousins it will hopefully bring an end to this horrid and dangerous practice.
Thank you to KWiSA (Kenyan Women in Scotland Association) and The Scottish Refugee Council for giving me this opportunity to go down to Nottingham.
Kenyan Women in Scotland Association, c/o NIDOS, Thorn&House, 5 Rose St, Edinburgh EH2 2PR