Our continuous journey of change
- 11 Posts
My name is Kaltun, I am an 18 year old who has just completed her A-Levels. I have been a member of Empowering, and so I have been advocating against FGM, for 3 years. Our work ranges from an interactive teaching resource to publishing poems to being part of the Guardian Campaign.
She is a British citizen of African ethnicity. She utilises the schooling and healthcare, free and easily accessible, in the UK. Her country of origin is one of the 29 FGM practising countries in Africa. But does she know that? Her answer is no. She did not know of FGM, of Female Genital Mutilation. We explain to her what the practice entails and ask her again – had she heard of FGM? Her answer is yes.
‘Mutilation’ is not a term used by practising communities as it addresses the cultural practice barbaric and cruel. However how can a practice, despite being nothing but harmful, be described as barbaric and cruel when the intentions of the family is in the girl’s best interests? Many see it as a rite of passage, that it ensures purity and virginity but some misinterpret it to be a religious requirement. The majority of practising communities, excluding effects of immigration, are concentrated in the developing world where extreme poverty overshadows fundamental human rights. In nations with high prevalence rates of FGM, the practice has been considered a traditional social norm and to not have the practice would make you the outcast; when a practice is so embedded within a community its members do not tend to take it kindly when outsiders tell them what is right.
Education. Nelson Mandela once said that ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’; in this case if parents are told what the psychological and physical health effects of FGM and we ask them whether they would still consider going through with it you would hope that they would have a change of heart. If young people are told their human rights and that FGM is a violation of 5 of them, you would hope to empower them to speak out. If medical staffs are told of the health effects of FGM, you would hope them to be more proactive in preventing the practice by preaching about the relation between the health effects the women sometimes consider to be normal, to actually be directly to linked FGM.
The benefits of education are endless – after all it is the most powerful weapon. Attitudinal change has not just begun but there have been women who have been campaigning for decades against the practice, they were the real triggers of change. Education, in places where legislation is highly regarded, can be benefitted by laws however even these have mixed successes.
Then there is the imbalance in privileges between the sexes – education, healthcare and political freedom should not be privileges but rather universal fundamental rights. Much of the world, including FGM affected communities, is a victim of patriarchal influence.
Therefore - empowerment of women and girls is a key step to continue battling through our journey of change.