6th of February is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). To commemorate this UN-sponsored day to raise awareness of FGM as part of efforts to bring FGM to an end globally, Bradford came together to declare their city ‘ZERO TOLERANCE FOR FGM.
In preparation for the day, Peacemaker International, a charity based in Bradford, approached Cllr Joanne Dodds who has been supporting their campaign against FGM since she was a Deputy/Lord Mayor of Bradford. ‘On November 16th 2016 she was nominated to be our champion of the movement’, Yemi Fagborun, the CEO of the charity said. Cllr Dodds subsequently tabled motion to make Bradford ‘Zero Tolerance for FGM’ at the Full Council Meeting on the 27th January 2017 and it was unanimously supported.
Sequel to this was the decoration of the pledge to put an end to FGM by signing the pledge; declaring Bradford Metropolitan a Zero Tolerance city for FGM. The ceremony took place on the 6th February 2017 at the City Hall, Saville Room at 10.00am. It was attended by some Council officials, individuals from the FGM practising communities in Bradford and dignitaries from the Community and Voluntary Sector, including members of the Multi-Agency Group on FGM.
The people who signed the pledge included: Cllr Joanne Dodds – our FGM champion, District Commander for the Bradford District for West Yorkshire Police, Makin Dixon Solicitors, Representative of the Racial Justice Network, Anah Project – a refuge for single women survivors of DV, Victim Support, Councillors, the Chief Executive of the Council and some Council officials, Chair, Trustees and CEO of Peacemaker International, Bradford College Group CEO and members of the public. Reporters from Telegraph and Argus, the Director of BCB Radio as well as BBC Radio Leeds were present to document the occasion.
Yemi Fagborun, (CEO of Peacemaker International) then read out an extract of her poem talking about her experience with FGM, taken from the report that was done for the conference in 2015. The poem spoke of the hardships of coming to terms with the practice, as well as the pain endured by mother and child and the struggle with speaking out about the practise.
The momentous occasion was celebrated with the cutting of a custom made ‘Zero Tolerance for FGM’ cake and the release of helium balloons outside of City Hall, symbolising the break from ties to FGM practice in Bradford and a new-found freedom.
The event was a huge step forward in tackling the practice of FGM in the district as well as shining a light on the issue that is seldom spoken about or known. Many are still ignorant of the practice and its vast consequences.
We should all know that FGM is a safeguarding issue and we need joint efforts to combat it. Local women and girls must be protected. We must take it as a task to raise awareness of the practice and promote its eradication.
Peacemaker International organised a conference with the theme “Towards Eradicating FGM” in March 2015 which was well attended in Bradford. The organisation has intensified its efforts to end the practice of FGM and support survivors. Not only in Bradford, some people working for them in Africa to go to the root of the practice. Raising awareness through children and school has proved effective both in the UK and abroad.
Up until now many people, including professionals, do not know much about the practice. In simple terms, FGM, also known as female circumcision or female cutting, is the removal of parts of the externa female genital organ for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.
The practice is unnecessary and it has many serious consequences at the time a baby girl or woman is cut and later in life. FGM is normally performed on newborn baby girls and young women before marriage or during pregnancy. The practice is mainly in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle and Far East. We are currently supporting some families from the practising communities. We also work with local schools to raise awareness in Bradford.
Parents must know that the practice has been prohibited in the UK. It is an offence to carry it out, or to aid, or abet or procure the performance by another person of any form of FGM except for specific medical purpose. It carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. This includes British Nationals or Permanent UK Residents. It is also illegal to take girls abroad to cut. Being a sensitive issue, many people from the practising communities would not like to talk about it. Many survivors who continue to live with the pain of FGM are encouraged to come out and join the crusade to end the practice.