As part of the campaign launched by Women's Equality Party Southark, calling for Southwark Council to protect funds for FGM support services - I was responsible for copy across leaflets, blogs, social media, emails and a petition.
During the Peckham festival (16 & 17 September) WE were extremely excited to launch a campaign with a local campaigner, petitioning Southwark Council to reverse the cuts to funding for FGM services in the borough.
The borough of Southwark has the highest proportion of women who have undergone FGM in the UK. It’s estimated that at least 10% of all Southwark girls are born to survivors of FGM.
What is FGM?
FGM (female genital mutilation) or ‘cutting’ involves partial or full removal of the clitoris, partial or full removal of the labia and the clitoris or full removal of all external genitalia and the stitching of the vulva.
When Sarian was a young girl in Sierra Leone she was taken, with her sisters, to be cut. Culturally this ‘rite of passage’ brings honour and respect upon young women, but crucially is not discussed until the young girl is about to be cut. Sarian remembers vividly the drums playing louder and louder as she screamed in pain.
Years on - Sarian, now living in Peckham, is saving the lives of girls who are at risk of FGM. Through her initiative Keep the Drums, Lose the Knife she provides a safe space for women and couples to share their experiences and discuss the ongoing impacts FGM has had on their life.
What does Sarian want you to know?
FGM is shrouded in silence so Sarian tackles this head on, through campaigning and education. In partnership with Sarian, WE want to bust some myths:
FGM is sexual abuse
FGM is not linked to religion
FGM can lead to lifelong pain during urination, menstruation and sexual activity
FGM can lead to complications in childbirth and higher infant mortality
FGM can lead to difficulty walking, sitting or standing
FGM often results in long-term psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and internalised shame
FGM is happening here in London
FGM has an ongoing physical and emotional impact on women, such as lifelong pain during urination, sexual activity and childbirth as well as internalised shame and continuing mental trauma, especially with intimacy.
What are WE doing?
Local council cuts are impacting women’s services. Women’s Equality Party Southwark spent the weekend gathering signatures for a petition calling on Southwark council to ring-fence specific FGM related funds, to ensure:
Sarian and other local campaigners can continue to raise awareness and educate communities
Specific training can be given to healthcare professionals to identify and support victims
Local schools can receive training to identify signs of girls being prepared for or having been cut
FGM survivors can access support groups and counselling sessions
Education can be given to communities about the impact of FGM on their Women and Girls
Please continue to support our campaign by signing our ONLINE PETITION.