February 5, 2021


By Sakiya Ghalib, 2020 Diana Award recipient from Bristol, UK

Coming from a community that is affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Sakiya has been a passionate anti-FGM activist for 10 years. Her work involves delivering peer education workshops on FGM and other forms of gender-based violence in schools.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful cultural practice of altering or removing some, or all, of a person’s female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women. It generally takes place before a girl reaches the age of 15, and commonly happens between infancy and puberty. The practice is performed around the globe but is most known for its high concentration in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Girls who undergo female genital mutilation face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences for their sexual and reproductive health and mental health. The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary from one region to another as well as over time and include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities.

Sakiya’s work has included supporting NHS FGM pilot clinics, helping with IUK’s ‘FGM Medical Conference’ in 2018, leading focus groups, urging young men and boys to join the campaign and planning IUK’s ‘Annual Youth Conference’.

In 2016, UNICEF estimated that 200 million women around the world have undergone FGM.  More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually. In England & Wales, where FGM has been illegal since 1985, approximately 137,000 women and girls have been subjected to the practise.

Although the practice has been around for more than a thousand years, there is hope that female genital mutilation could end in a single generation. That is why the United Nations strives for its full eradication by 2030, following the spirit of Sustainable Development Goal 5.

To promote the elimination of female genital mutilation, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights, gender equality, sexual education and attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.

That is why anti-FGM learning is so important in schools, to empower young women to equip them with the tools needed to report potential cases, understand the signs that someone may be at risk of FGM or have gone through it and the ability protect themselves and their peers. By educating people on the harmful consequences of FGM and changing the attitudes and perceptions of those from practicing communities, we start to open up the conversation and will begin to see positive change.

Sakiya is dedicated to helping young people achieve their goals and aspirations. She is determined to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, and that young people have their voice heard.

We must work together to end FGM. So on International Day of Zero Tolerance Day for FGM today, here are a couple of thing you can do to help…

Start a conversation. Change starts with you and me. Who can you talk to today about why FGM must end?

Be part of the online conversation and participate on social media. Share with the world how you #Act2EndFGM!

If you’re worried that you or someone you know may undergo FGM or already have, there is support out there. You can talk to a teacher at school or a doctor or access help from Childline or the NSPPC FGM helpline (0800 028 3550).

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