Guest Blog by Mama Sylla, FGM survivor and Chairwoman of la Fraternite Guineenne
I grew up in a society where I had been led to believe that FGM/C was normal and justified. In Guinea the practice of FGM is still widespread and the belief is that a girl has to undergo FGM in order to be accepted later as an accomplished woman. When I was growing up, I was always told that I had to be clean and stay a virgin for my future husband.
Most of the time, parents who allow their girls to be cut are also victims of their ignorance. They think that since they had undergone the practice, it is normal for their daughters to be put through the same ordeal. These parents are often unaware of the health complications surrounding FGM, and think they are doing what is best for their daughters.
Three years ago, I was pregnant with my first child and during my appointments I was asked to meet the FGM specialist team. When I convened with the team, I was asked whether I was an FGM victim to which I replied “yes”. I was then asked if I knew why I was summoned there; I said “no”.
In the conversation that unfolded with this team, I was asked about the types of FGM I had had. I was taken aback since I never knew there were different types of cuts. That moment was a turning point. From then on, I decided to check with my Guinean sisters and see how much they knew about FGM, whether they knew about the provision of the legislative framework pertaining to FGM in the UK and what was expected from them as parents. From the survey I conducted it came about that only 1 in 10 knew that there existed different types of FGM and the type of cut they had. The majority knew little about safeguarding their daughters.
The Guinean community is generally oblivious of the full wrath of the law they face on FGM in the UK. Our charity, la Fraternite Guineenne, believes it is in the best interest of parents to be knowledgeable of the extent and implications of the FGM legislation. Furthermore, my charity thinks that our compatriots here ought to made aware that there are many things that are accepted and tolerated in Guinea that are not allowed in the UK - FGM is one of those.
Sadly, despite FGM being banned in Guinea since 1965, the practice is still commonplace and the legislation has never been properly applied. This accounts for why cutters who are occasionally arrested, are always freed thereafter and is also the reason why the practice is still on the rise. The fact that FGM is deeply shrouded in the culture and traditions of the country is also not helping.
My organisation, La Fraternite Guineenne, is a London-based registered charity that has been campaigning to raise awareness among the Guinean community. Though the campaign to end FGM has gained momentum in the UK and throughout the world, this practice is still widespread in Guinea ( almost 97% prevalence).
Since 2015 we have been working within and outside London to meet communities and raise awareness on FGM. Our 5thsafeguarding event is to take place this month in Birmingham where we will meet the community and campaign against FGM. It has been a long and challenging battle but Fraternite has gained ground on the quest to eradicate FGM from the mind of modern mainstream Guinean Women of the UK. Ending FGM here in the UK and back in Guinea is a quest which Fraternité will not give up and I will not rest until we claim victory. We are working together with other likeminded reputable organizations in this fight as they know now there is a large Guinean community living in the UK.
I am a proud mother of beautiful twins who mean the world to me. Under no circumstance will I allow them to be mutilated on senseless and baseless grounds. My primary mission is to protect them from falling victim to FGM.
Let’s protect our girls of today and mothers of tomorrow. Together we can #EndFGM in Guinea and around the world by 2030.