The distressing and harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), defined by the UN as “all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons” continues to be prevalent around the world today. According to the most recent UNICEF report, more than 200 million young women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation and another 3 million girls, the majority under the age of 15, are at risk every year. FGM, which has no health benefits and no link to religion, causes unbearable pain and health complications that include infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
This brutal practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. Organizations around the world and filmmakers, who wish to highlight this painful topic, are mobilizing and focusing their actions on prevention and awareness raising.
The fight continues in the field
In the United Kingdom, the Foundation’s partner Birmingham & Sollihul Women’s Aid has been providing medical, legal and psychological support to women who are survivors of female genital mutilation since 2010. Stemming from the realization that women who had undergone FGM were not receiving the comprehensive care they needed, the organization put into place a community based approach in order to improve their overall well-being.
In France, Excision, parlons-en launched its FGM Alert campaign in 2017 to warn and protect adolescent girls in France, who are at high risk of being cut during summer holidays, when they return to their families’ countries of origin. This year, the organization has developed an online chat tool that allows girls to share their doubts and questions anonymously.
La Maison des Femmes, outside of Paris, is a “one-stop” shop for women in need, 14% of whom are survivors of female genital mutilation. These women receive care and comprehensive guidance, not only medical, but also psychological, emotional, mental and physical.
Filmmakers put a spotlight on this brutal practice and the life-long consequences
Beyond the essential work being done by organizations, the film industry is also raising awareness, by taking a close look at this subject through documentaries and movies that show the painful and lasting effects:
Jaha Dukureh makes the courageous choice to return to Gambia to share her story and raise awareness among the women in her community about the dangers of female genital mutilation, after having been cut at the age of 15 and then forced into marriage.
This biographical film tells the story of activist Ifrah Ahmed (played by Aja Naomi King), a young Somalian woman who immigrated to Ireland as a teenager. After undergoing a cutting procedure twice, Ifrah vows to spend her life fighting this practice in her home country and internationally.
For Mireille Darc’s last documentary, she turns the spotlight on women who are survivors of female genital mutilation living in France and their powerful testimonials: “I left innocence to enter violence, the barbarity of life”.