Published on July 6th, 2017 | by John OMeara0
UNDERSTANDING FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION, AND ENDING IT
Project Somali (Piers Road Centre, Handsworth) has produced an exceptional piece of work addressing female genital mutilation (FGM). The book ‘The Bright and Dark Colours of My Life’ is based on interviews with 5 Somali women who all experienced FGM (the cutting away of external female genitalia) at a young age. It makes it possible to see how an abusive and damaging practice, which exists in many societies across several continents (and is a pressing issue for us in Birmingham), can occur in an otherwise loving and positive culture; it shows the life-threatening consequences, particularly in later childbirth; and it shows how to end it.
The book provides insight into how any culture can enrich and imprison at the same time. It is a long read (you are likely to need up to an hour), but we believe it is worth every minute. You can download the book by clicking on the title below and then scrolling down until you find the blue ‘DOWNLOAD BOOK’ button:
If you are currently at risk of FGM, or know someone who is, you can contact the police on 101 for a discussion (0800 555 111 if you want to remain anonymous) or on 999 if it is an emergency. If you are struggling with the consequences of FGM you can contact the Specialist Midwife for FGM on 0121 424 3909 or 07817 534274. If you want to get involved in efforts to end FGM you can contact Women’s Aid on 0808 800 0028.
FGM is illegal, and it is urgent. We are aware that young girls, in Handsworth and other areas of Birmingham, are going through it now. The police and other agencies promote awareness (click BAFGM), and look for opportunities to work together with local groups to prevent further unnecessary suffering. The success of the work depends to a great degree on understanding the cultural context, and building momentum for change from within cultures, but clearly agencies like schools are crucial in both awareness raising and detection.
Project Somali’s book is remarkable in its ability to let the reader live Somali culture from the inside, to the point of realising that this could be my own story if I was born in the same time and place. If it did nothing more than this it would be of immense value for cross-cultural insight, for showing how fully our humanity is shared.
But these stories do something else, something you increasingly dread as you go further into descriptions of idyllic childhood: it makes FGM real; and yet without lessening the shock of it at all, it makes it understandable. Once it is understood there can be solutions. We urge you to read the book, and to get behind the efforts to end FGM in any way that you can.
Somali-born artist Ahmed Magare (click on name to follow link) has produced a set of five evocative pictures which reflect aspects of the stories, and these are reproduced below: