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What you can do to make UK schools a safer place to address FGM and child marriage

Fatima Awil

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) continues to be a serious problem in the UK. According to children’s charity Plan UK, a case of FGM is reported in England on average every 109 minutes.

The most recent full year of official figures reveal 2,421 cases.

“FGM is mostly carried out on girls between infancy and age 15,” says Plan UK. “It is a violation of girls’ rights that has no health benefits and causes physical and emotional trauma. Female circumcision commonly leads to infection, infertility, and even death.”

Fatima Awil
Ms Fatima Awil

The children’s charity estimates that some 170,000 women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM in the UK and a further 65,000 girls under 13 could be at risk of FGM.

Through their work with the Youth For Change group of young people, the Plan UK are calling for better teacher training on how to spot girls at risk.

A new online petition has been set up demanding better protection of young people from harmful practices like FGM by improving awareness in schools.
 
The petition titled “Make UK schools a safer place to address FGM and child marriage” was initiated by Fatima Awil who comes from a Somali background. She says that 98% of girls in Somali have undergone FGM. Ms Awil describes her community as one “that has been scarred and held back by this practice.”

“Protecting girls from these harmful practices is something that I have dedicated my life to,” she adds.

Ms Awil urges the government to reach out and protect young people if they are keen on breaking this cycle of violence on girls and women.

“FGM transforms natural occurrences in women; such as menstruation, urination and child birth, into a nightmare. Girls forced into marriage are more likely to be subjected to violence, such as rape. These issues are forms of child abuse which prevent girls from reaching their full potential,” Ms Awil says explaining why she has started this campaign with Youth For Change.

“We desperately need to tackle these harmful practices. With so many girls being cut, and pushed into ‘marriage’ against their will, it is extremely likely that you know a survivor, but have not heard their story.  Don’t let these silent forms of abuse, continue to take place. You can make the difference, by ensuring that these issues do not go unnoticed and that young people are protected. This can’t happen without response, this can’t happen without your help.”

Click here to sign the petition and join Plan UK in asking the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, to make UK schools a safer place to report FGM and child marriage.  

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