WHFS lead FGM /C House of Commons Seminar
Sharon Hanooman from WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services) led a powerful and inspiring women-only seminar on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM /C) at the House of Commons on Thursday 16th October 2014.
Hosted by Rushanara Ali (MP for Bethnal Green and Bow), the event brought together over 80 women from the Tower Hamlets Somali community, specialist health professionals, midwives and officials from the Department of Public Health. WHFS also released the FGM /C community project report, ‘Hear Our Voices’ (please click here for the report).
Rushanara Ali MP said that ‘hearts and minds’ need to be won and work needs to be undertaken on a range of fronts, spanning legal aspects, medical support for those affected, and work within the community.
The emotionally-moving event heard the personal experiences of affected women in Tower Hamlets. ‘I can’t forget the cutting, the actual sound of the razor blade against my skin,’ said one woman who experienced FGM /C when she was 8 years old. ‘I got infected and it was a horrific experience. Women my mum’s age now ask for their daughter’s forgiveness, and of course we forgive them - we love them.’.
The presentation of WHFS’s community work showed evidence of a need for attitude change led from within the community, addressing all generations and men, as well as women. It also demonstrated the need for local women (who reflect the cultural identity of affected communities) to lead FGM /C activity as Community Champions.
Midwifery-led FGM /C work from other areas of London was shared by specialist midwives Juliet Albert, Joy Clarke and Fahima Yusuf. Janet Barter, new Consultant in Reproductive & Sexual Health at Barts NHS Health Trust, said she was looking forward to working with the community to deliver services for Tower Hamlets.
During the event, many women who had experienced the most severe form of FGM came up to Dr Geetha Subramanian MBE, who has worked as a consultant for 27 years at Barts, to say ‘thank you’ for ‘opening them up’. Dr Subramanian also discussed the challenges that health professionals have in delivering FGM /C services, including obtaining appropriate training. WHFS Co-Chair, Karen Wint, summed up by saying that we all need to work collaboratively to make change happen.
Features WHFS Patron, Dr Geetha Subramanian MBE, addressing the WHFS "Hear Our Voices" event at the House of Commons in October 2014.