Guest blog by Helena Sharpstone.
On October 5th I will be celebrating 50 lucky years. I want to make my birthday mean something and there's nothing I really need ( apart from £20k or so of Lipo ) so instead of presents, I’m asking my friends and family to consider making a donation to a remarkable charity called 28 Too Many for whom I recently became an ambassador.
28 Too Many is a small charity that punches well above its weight. It works to end the horrific practice of FGM - Female Genital Mutilation, which is still practised widely in Africa, The Middle East and Asia.
Like most of us, I moan about my body. But like it or hate it - it's MINE. Mine to celebrate, mine to enjoy and no one tells me what I can or can't do with it. Not all women have had that choice. If you don’t know the specifics of what it means to be “cut” I urge you to do as I did and to read the definitions and case studies on 28 Too Many’s website. I did and believe me, you need a strong stomach. I found myself sitting in my office with tears pouring down by cheeks, staring at the picture of my young daughter on my desk and wondering how it is possible to do something so brutal and harmful to someone you love. And the damage done through FGM goes way beyond anything physical. The emotional as well as physical scars are unimaginable and hard to come back from in any meaningful way.
But crying and wondering doesn’t bring about change. Understanding, influencing and action does and that is why I became an ambassador for this remarkable Charity, led by the very able and inspiring Ann-Marie Wilson who frankly, “Had me at Hello”. In my ambassador role I hope to use my communications and leadership skills, as well as my contacts, to talk loudly about this issue and persuade others to be involved, to help 28 Too Many in its endeavours – and I’ll also be fundraising.
Which brings me back to my 50th birthday from which I realise I can run but not hide. So I could let people buy me presents which I’m sure will be lovely but really not needed – how many handbags can one woman reasonably own? My husband doesn’t understand why I can’t transport everything I need for the day in an Asda carrier bag. No, instead of presents I will be fundraising for 28 Too Many. I’m not doing anything for the money by the way. I think turning 50 with aplomb is every bit as brave as a bungee jump.
So on October 5th, think of me and don’t leave me out there on my own. Make a donation – even a little will do a lot. And then you like me will show you want to help and work with 28 Too Many to make FGM a tragic piece of past history not a grim part of the present and future for so many little girls and young women.
If you want to take action, you can learn more about 28 Too Many's work to end FGM and how you can help at www.28toomany.org. You can donate to support our research and campaigns and follow us on Facebook for updates on the global movement to end FGM.