Southwark Council: protect funding for FGM support services

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My name is Sarian. When I was 11 years old in Sierra Leone, I was taken, with my sisters and cousins, to be cut. Culturally this 'rite of passage’ is supposed to be about honour and respect, but the girl is not told what's really going to happen. I remember vividly the drums playing louder and louder as I screamed in pain. This was child abuse.

FGM (female genital mutilation) or ‘cutting’ involves partial or full removal of the clitoris, partial or full removal of the labia and the clitoris, or full removal of all external genitalia and the stitching of the vulva.

I now live in Peckham, a qualified Community Development Worker and I have dedicated my life to working with communities to break the cycle of abuse and protect girls who are at risk of FGM. Through my initiative Keep the Drums, Lose the Knife (KDLK) I provide a safe space for women and couples to share their experiences and discuss the impact FGM has had on their life.

Local council cuts are impacting women’s services, so I've teamed up with Women’s Equality Party Southwark to lobby Southwark Council. We're asking them to protect funding for FGM support services to ensure:

  • Local grassroots campaigners like me can continue to raise awareness and educate 
  • Training is given to healthcare professionals so they can identify and support victims
  • Training is given to teachers so they can identify girls who have been cut or are at risk
  • FGM survivors can access support groups and counselling sessions
  • Education can be given to communities about the impact of FGM on their Women and Girls.

FGM is shrouded in silence so I tackle this head on, through campaigning and education. Here are some hard truths:

  • FGM is sexual abuse 
  • FGM is not linked to religion
  • FGM can lead to lifelong pain during urination, menstruation and sexual activity
  • FGM can lead to complications in childbirth and higher infant mortality
  • FGM can lead to difficulty walking, sitting or standing
  • FGM often results in long-term psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and internalised shame
  • FGM is happening here in London

It’s estimated that at least 1 in 10 Southwark girls are born to survivors of FGM. The London borough of Southwark has the highest rate of FGM in the UK.

Please sign my petition asking Southwark Council not to reduce funding for FGM support services.