Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid
Event report – 21st of August 2014
Attended by 25 young women from various FGM practicing communities
The Hear Our Voices event was organised by BSWAID and two members of the young people group set up by Ayan. The aim of this event was to launch a campaign by Anam and Deeqa producing an animation raising awareness of female genital mutilation. The animation is a short summary aimed at school age girls to create a dialogue between teachers and students and parents and their children. The aim of the animation is to allow discussions of FGM in the same way that sexual health issues or domestic violence are discussed. FGM should be seen as a topic we can openly talk about.
We decided to arrange an event to showcase the project, inviting young people to partake in this event to get feedback and use their ideas to develop learning resources for us to take into schools.
We decided to with go with a traditional English tea party theme. FGM is seen by many people as an African issue that does not affect the general British public. We therefore decided that this theme has a direct connection in challenging this perception. New research conducted by City University & Equality Now has revealed that an estimated 137,000 women & children in England & Wales are living with the consequences of FGM – a significant increase in recent years due to people escaping war-torn countries.
We wanted to create a safe and open space for young people to feel comfortable in opening up about their views on FGM. We decided to do workshops which allowed us to explore these ideas in a fun and interactive way.
The day started with an introduction to FGM. Despite many of the young people who attended the event coming from FGM practicing communities, they did not have much knowledge about the practice as this topic is not discussed within the home. Many were British born or escaped their war-torn country at a very young age.
Following this, we ran our first workshop where the group discussed some of the motivations and myths behind FGM. This was an interesting way of exploring some of the misconceptions about FGM, and the reasons behind this practice. We all collectively agreed that the main motivation behind FGM is to control a girl/woman’s sexuality.
Nasheima then did an overview of BSWAID, and the FGM project within our organization. She talked about the reasons for its establishment and its role within BSWAID and how as an organisation we aim to support woman and children subjected to gender based violence including FGM.
Anam and Deeqa then spoke about the unstitched animation. They explained that they decided to create a resource which is accessible to young people and does not contain graphic imagery. Anam and Deeqa explained that there is a lack of resources around FGM, particularly those for a younger audience.
Following this, we ran a second workshop where we explored how FGM effects a woman during different stages of life; as a baby, during childbirth and as an adult. We explored how FGM might effect a girl that has not had FGM done, exploring the stigma that might be attached to her within her community. We got fantastic feedback from this -FGM effects girls and woman in every aspect of their life, both physically and psycho-socially.
It was also interesting to hear from girls who have not had FGM done, explaining that when FGM is discussed within their home, it is done so in a “jokey manner,” and girls are told “that they are very lucky”, in escaping this practice. They explained that they never saw FGM as an issue that effects them but realized the importance of having this information, not only to not continue the practice, but to support friends and family that may have been effected by FGM.
The final workshop consisted of the group summarizing some of discussions that we had throughout the day using both art and poetry to put these statements across. One of the art groups came up with some amazing slogans such as “FGM, not in her jeans,” and “I have just had FGM done, but the biggest change you see is in my face.” Overall these workshop were a great success and very popular with the young people. It allowed them to use their creative skills to create pieces of artwork that reinforced why FGM is a practice that should end.
We asked the young people to complete evaluation and feedback forms. Overall the feedback we received was extremely positive, all said they had gained a significant amount of knowledge on the topic of FGM. They all wanted to attend future events organized by Women’s Aid and were interested in campaigning on FGM. Some of the feedback also said that they wanted to involve their friends and family in this campaigning. The event was successful in creating a safe space for young people to gain information about FGM and to discuss the subject matter with their peers. The animation had great feedback from the young people as well.
– FGM Community Development Worker Farhiya Ismail