That is the powerful message being sent out as awareness is raised in local schools about female genital mutilation (FGM).
Perivale Primary School has been leading the way locally, with children, parents and staff all taking part in safeguarding lessons put on by Ealing Council. Their importance has been recognised by the John Lyons charity, which has now provided funding to help the council put on the sessions in another six schools across the borough.
According to estimates by City University, in England there are 137,000 girls and women living with FGM, and 144,000 girls at risk of it.
It is believed one reason FGM is practised in the UK is people not knowing that it is illegal in this country. In fact, it has been illegal since 1985 and, if a child is suspected to be at risk, the authorities can intervene.
The safeguarding sessions at Perivale Primary are led by Hoda Ali, who was employed from the NHS to take on this role, which was funded for three years with money granted by John Lyons. She is a FGM survivor. In the lessons to parents and staff, she discusses her own experience with FGM and explains simple guidance from the NSPCC.
Hoda said: “I was cut when I was seven in Somalia. FGM is quite different where I was from. Rather than being done under the radar, it was seen as a day of celebration and, to me looking back, I remember on the day thinking that it was the day that I turned into a woman. Since then I have had to deal with numerous health issues, including being told that I would not be able to have children with my partner. For this reason, I have decided to keep fighting to make sure that we create a world without FGM. FGM is child abuse, full stop.
“I think that the safeguarding sessions we are putting on are vital and will help to raise awareness with children, parents and staff.”
It is often assumed that FGM is only prevalent in eastern Africa but, according to the Home Office, there are many other countries that also practise FGM. This includes countries in the Middle East and Indonesia, and areas of eastern Europe and South America.
Get help or report it
- FGM is a criminal offence. Report any concerns to Ealing Children’s Integrated Response Service (ECIRS) on 020 8825 8000, option 2
- If there is concern that the child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999
- If you have undergone FGM you can join a future support group, please contact the Dahlia Project to arrange a referral on 020 7281 7694 or email Alev Erce at firstname.lastname@example.org