#ItsNotOK! That’s the hashtag for this year’s Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which kicks off from 6 to 12 February.

One of the worst forms of sexual violence against women is Female Genital Mutilation, the ritualistic practice of removing some or all of the external female genitalia. Sadly, this barbaric habit shows no sign of waning. The 6th of February also marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Jay Kamara-Frederick, founder of SKIM (Sisters Keep It Moving), an empowerment network for women who have experienced sexual violence, talks about FGM, an issue close to her heart.

For me, today gives an opportunity for some deep reflection on why such a practice continues to exist and the unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted on millions of girls/woman worldwide who didn’t ask for it. Some may have been groomed or coerced into getting cut.  Others cut as babies or young girls never knowing that it has happened to them until maybe their first sexual encounter, visit to a gynaecologist or, when just about to give birth.

Melanmag.com: #ItsNotOK!
Pictured: Jay K Frederick

As I reflect on my own personal experience what I know for sure is that no one should ever have to go through FGM or what I will now be calling Female Genital Trauma (FGT), a term coined by Leyla Hussain.

Today, (6 February 2017) campaigners and supporters will be gathering outside Ealing Council to protest against the closure of one of the first and model clinics in the UK to support the girls and woman who have undergone FGT.

Established in 2007, the award-winning African Woman Wellness Clinic has helped thousands of woman and their families by providing a holistic service to reverse and educate on the effects of FGM. The Clinic has even been used as an exemplar model of best practice with other clinics in the UK benefitting from using its model.

Until two weeks ago, the clinic was virtually unknown to the unsuspecting general public – it has no website and any information about what it does can be found on a handful of websites with an interest in woman’s health issues of FGM/FGT.  There are about seven clinics in London, with the Acton site being the only holistic clinic in the UK that provides a complete service – reversals, counselling, ongoing medical and health checks.

My heart breaks to know of the closure of this clinic. It has not just helped, it has saved lives, given women their dignity back and improved the health and wellbeing of thousands of women from not just within the borough of Ealing, and throughout the UK.  It has given women the rights to choose – how they want to give birth, how they want to make love and reconnected women with their divine feminine nature, which is every woman’s right.

I have had the opportunity to speak to a few women who’d been helped by the clinic.  Some said their marriages have been saved and they feel more connected to their husbands than ever before. It’s not about sex for them, but about sharing intimacy that is no longer painful or uncomfortable. For others they expressed the breaking of mental and physical barriers that had hindered them in mind body and spirit.

Individuals found out about the clinic by referrals from professionals and word of mouth, as sisters tell their sisters and they in turn tell their friends and relatives about the service. Like Chinese whispers. A unique band of sisters have been bought together because of this clinic.

Additionally, Ealing has the third highest rate of Female Genital Mutilation out of all London boroughs according to a 2016 report compiled by the Home Affairs Committee aimed at reviewing FGM prevalence and evaluating government policy on the practice. It’s ludicrous to shut down this much needed and used clinic which clearly benefits its community.

We can no longer sit on the side lines if we want something to change. So I will be protesting in person and online using #SaveFGMClinicActon to drum up awareness about saving this service. A petition to save the service  is currently available and to date has gathered more than 18,000 signatures.  You can do your bit by adding your signature. If 25,000 signatures are gained it will be presented to Nicola Blackwood MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health & Innovation, giving an opportunity for the clinic to be saved!

Contact @jaykfrederick and @SKIMnetwork

 

Featured Image credit: www.123rf.com.

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