Female Genital Mutilation in Northern Ireland:

This week the Women’s Regional Consortium (WRC) in partnership with Somali Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and Unison the union held a major conference in Belfast on raising awareness and managing FGM in NI. You may ask why is this important and the reason is that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is happening in NI and according to one expert, girls are being taken from here, as they are in the rest of the UK, and flown to other countries to undergo brutal and deadly cultural procedures that have lasting repercussions for their health and well-being.

The conference heard from senior PSNI officers, Safeguarding Board NI, Essex police force & the institute of policing –University of Chester, Paula Bradshaw MLA, Doctors specialising in corrective surgery and FGM survivors. Former nurse Angie Marriot has spearheaded this important work in the UK for 20 years and has been supporting the work of SWAN in NI over the past three years, and through the WRC Angie has delivered FGM workshops to various women’s centres & group’s right across NI. Angie hopes that securing their first prosecution and conviction for FGM on a three year old girl in England earlier this year will deter others from taking part in the traditional practice that is happening across the UK.

FGM involves partial or total removal of the female genitalia and is performed any time between the ages of three and seven years old and then from 11 to 16 years old and the ritual has its roots in tradition and culture. Angie told conference that it “is a misconception that FGM is associated with the Muslim faith and the Koran and it has no association with religion…..FGM is part of gender-based violence, coercion and control which must end”.

Conference called for increased awareness raising of FGM in communities and training for childcare workers and those working in education, health, community & voluntary sector, as well as professionals such as social workers, GP’s, police and Border force officers, as well as all agencies working cross-sectorally to effectively tackle the brutal practice of FGM in NI.

Kemi Ajayi a mental health nurse and FGM survivor spoke of the after effects of FGM suffering from menstruation & incontinence problems, pelvic pain and the lack of sexual pleasure resulting in the breakup of relationships to anxiety, depression and constant experience of reliving the trauma of being cut as a 5 year old child. The long-term effects of FGM are monumental causing huge psychological damage to the estimated 200 million women globally who have been cut and in the UK alone including Northern Ireland, there are 65,000 girls at risk.      

If you would like to help raise awareness of FGM in your community/group please contact info@wrda.net for further information including leaflets and posters.