Monday July 23, 2018
Home Lead Story British Child...

British Children Learning Basics of FGM to Curb the Taboos

FGM is underpinned by the desire to control female sexuality, but beliefs around the practice vary enormously. Many believe it purifies the girl, brings her status in the community and prevents promiscuity. Uncut girls risk being ostracized.

0
//
52
An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
A child in a class, pixabay
Republish
Reprint

As teacher Tanya Mathiason flicked through a slideshow to display diagrams of male and female genitalia to primary school children in northwest London, no one flinched or giggled.

Instead, the students eagerly discussed the meaning of the words: female, genital and mutilation.

“Break those words down: What does female mean? What does genital mean? What does mutilation mean?” said Mathiason, the head of pastoral care at Norbury School in the culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhood of Harrow.

“It means when someone cuts off stuff?” replied one student.

“Harm?” said another.

By the time they leave Norbury School, all 640 students — both boys and girls — will have learned about female genital mutilation (FGM), a ritual that usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia including the clitoris.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

FGM can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls hemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.

Young age

As FGM is mostly carried out between infancy and age 15, school principal Louise Browning said she wanted the students to start learning about it in the third year, at about seven years old.

FGM can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls hemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.
Representational image, pixabay

“I became more aware that FGM was happening to girls at a much younger age than I thought,” Browning told Reuters.

“Who’s to say that we don’t have survivors in our school? I felt I was letting down my girls by not raising this. Our end goal is for this practice to stop.”

Browning and her team worked with the National FGM Centre, run by children’s charity Barnado’s and the Local Government Association, to devise age-appropriate lessons, which they began teaching in Norbury School in 2015.

It is one of only a handful of primary schools in the country that teaches students about FGM, but raising awareness among parents and children was necessary, she said.

FGM mostly affects immigrant communities from various countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt — a demographic that is well-represented in the Harrow school.

“Many of our families, our children, come from FGM-practicing communities so it is really important that they have this knowledge, that they leave here at 11 [years old] knowing what this practice is about,” said pastoral manager Mathiason.

Shocking

FGM is performed by Muslims and Christians and by followers of some indigenous religions. People often believe FGM is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or the Bible.

“Most people who do it think it’s in their religion … but no religion actually tells you to do that,” said 11-year-old Khadija, who has learned about FGM since she was seven.

“It’s just shocking because it’s most likely to be parents who would do it. They’re the ones who love you and care about you, but instead they want to harm you,” she added.

In March, a London solicitor accused of forcing his daughter to be circumcised was acquitted, increasing pressure on police and prosecutors who have yet to secure a conviction for FGM more than 30 years after it was outlawed.

The prosecution was only the second to be brought under FGM legislation introduced in 1985.

Also Read: U.S. Tobacco Companies Must Put New Warnings on Packaging, Court Says 

FGM is underpinned by the desire to control female sexuality, but beliefs around the practice vary enormously. Many believe it purifies the girl, brings her status in the community and prevents promiscuity. Uncut girls risk being ostracized.

Sonita Pobi, head of training at the National FGM Center, said the lessons helped children make sense of the practice and know who to turn to for help, regardless of their cultural background or religion.

“It’s about giving children the vocabulary to speak up when something is wrong. It’s about making children aware about the hidden form of abuse that may happen to them,” Pobi said.

After learning about FGM at Norbury School, 11-year-old Oliver said he felt empowered to help classmates and friends.

“When I first learnt about it, I was quite scared because it was happening. But once I knew quite a bit about it, I knew that I couldn’t really sort out the situation, but I would know who to speak to,” he said.

His classmate Naylen, also 11, agreed.

“I think the FGM lessons are good for children to learn because … we could make a change to all of these harmful activities,” he said. (VOA)

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

“The Restorers” : Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Female Genital Mutilation

5 Kenyan Girls and Dorcas Owinoh, the team’s mentor have together created an app called i-Cut, which connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue agents and offers support for those who have already been cut

0
  • They have created an app called i-Cut which connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue agents and offers support for those who have already been cut
  • The pain of having your clitoris cut just because someone wants to have you go through a rite of passage

“It’s still fresh in my mind, the scene of female genital mutilation,” said Purity Achieng, a 17-year-old from Kenya.

Achieng was speaking on stage in the finals of the Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit, a competition that invites girls from around the world to come up with tech solutions to local community problems. Since it began in 2009, 15,000 girls from more than 100 countries have participated in the competition.

Achieng and her team of four other Kenyan teen girls call themselves “The Restorers.” They are taking on Female Genital Mutilation or FGM. They have created an app, called i-Cut, which connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue agents and offers support for those who have already been cut. It also provides information for anyone seeking to learn more about the practice.

ALSO READ: In Malawi, a Kenyan NGO trains Girls in Self Defense to counter Sexual Abuse

“The pain of having your clitoris cut just because someone wants to have you go through a ‘rite of passage,’” said Achieng, during her pitch at the competition. “It’s painful and no one wants to listen to you. You cry and there you are, almost dying but nobody is caring about that.”

At least 200 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation or FGM in 30 countries, reports UNICEF and 44 million are girls 14 and younger. The practice involves cutting out all or part of a woman’s clitoris, which is said to eliminate almost completely a woman’s sexual pleasure, in hopes of ensuring her virginity and keeping her faithful in marriage.

WATCH THE VIDEO:

The Kenyan girls in this competition have not experienced FGM firsthand, as their tribe does not practice it, but they have friends who have. One of Achieng’s best friends was forced to drop out of school and into an early marriage at 15 after FGM, which greatly affected Achieng.

“I think for teenagers to be able to identify problems around them and provide a solution, that is really inspiring,” said Dorcas Owinoh, the team’s mentor, who works as a community manager at LakeHub, a technology innovation hub in Kisumu, Kenya. It was Owinoh who brought the idea of the Technovation Challenge to the team.

ALSO READ: Kenyan girls pedal towards a better future

Achieng said it was her friend dropping out of school after FGM that inspired the team to create the app.

Other teams in the international event came from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Cambodia, the U.S. and other countries. The Restorers were the only team who qualified from the African continent.

“It’s always better when the people who face the problems, come up with their own solutions because they’re the most organic,” said Tara Chklovski, founder, and CEO of Iridescent, the nonprofit behind Technovation.

Though the i-Cut app has the potential to save lives, it has not been embraced by all Kenyans. “One village elder drove six hours to their school to protest the app because, according to him, that’s an African culture and the girls are being, according to him, Westernized,” Owinoh said.

The man had learned of the app after local media reported of the girl’s acceptance into Technovation. Owinoh said school leaders and teachers remained calm, spoke with him, and then asked him to leave.

ALSO READ: Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls in Kenya in Return for Food

Technovation comes at a time when women in technology are facing blowback, not just in Kenya, but even at the Google headquarters where the competition was held. A Google employee was recently fired after writing a memo positing that women are biologically inferior to men in regards to working in technology.

“I know the journey won’t always be easy but to the girls who dream of being an engineer or an entrepreneur and who dream of creating amazing things, I want you to know that there’s a place for you in this industry, there’s a place for you at Google—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the girls.

The Restorers did not win the Technovation Challenge, but they will continue their fight against FGM and hope to get i-Cut into the Google Play Store soon. (VOA)