Personal Stories from the West Midlands

Sarata Jabbi, Chief Executive Officer, Care for Women and Girls (CAWAG)1 “My name is Sarata Jabbi; I’m a Gambian, from a tribe called Mandingo. This is the tribe that mainly practice FGM in my country, because of their deeply-rooted culture and they believe it’s religious. I underwent FGM at the age of seven. I could remember this when I and my siblings were told that we were going to attend a party at one of our relatives’ house, we all got excited dressed in our new clothes and made our way to that house with some family friends. Upon our arrival, we were seated in the living room whilst the cutter was at the backyard waiting. While waiting for the party to start, one of the old women came in and took the youngest of us to the backyard. All of a sudden I heard her screaming; in less than ten minutes the same woman came for the second youngest. As the third youngest a fear begins to build in me, my heart starts beating because mum and daddy weren’t around to save me from whatever was there waiting for me. Now that my turn came up, the same old woman comes into the house approaching me. I started running, but unfortunately there was neither nowhere nor no one to run to. As soon as I got in the backyard I found my two siblings lying on the floor bleeding excessively whilst the cutter covered her face with a scarf. I was looking around and in all the women’s faces to see if I would see mummy’s face by chance. One of them held me down on the floor, others tied my eyes, covered my mouth and stretched my legs apart, and then I felt a sharp cut in between my legs, I screamed for help, but to no avail. As soon as the cutter finished the cutting, women start celebrating by singing and dancing, but ours was a different case. There was neither singing nor dancing because one of my sisters fainted due to heavy bleeding and was rushed to the hospital. The pain of FGM is unbearable and unimaginable, it’s the worst pain I have endured in life, and the pain was all over my body. It took me months to recover. Being a survivor of FGM, you live with it for the rest of your life, because of the psychological impact it leaves you with. For 24 years now since I was cut, it’s as if it happened to me yesterday, because I can still remember the pain I went through. I’m a mum of three, and had three natural births. Each of them was a horrific moment, as I got cut every time I gave birth, which keeps reminding me of FGM. FGM is bad, it’s against human rights, it’s a child abuse, its violence against women, it’s unhealthy, and above all it’s unreligious. FGM is a cultural belief, but is seen by many as a religious credence, and our parents performed it on us for various reasons, and these are: to keep our virginities, for family honour, to make us fit in our society, to have less desire for sex, etc. FGM has done more harm than good, and is still costing lives. It should be everyone’s business to end FGM in our generation and that of our young ones.”

Nasser Mockbill, Community Liaison Co-ordinator, Ark St Albans Academy2 “Safeguarding and protecting children, from all dangers and harm wherever in the world they happen to be, is everyone’s responsibility. To emphasise that FGM is everyone’s business, the following needs to be said: You have the option of walking out if the horror of FGM becomes too much for you. My advice to you is please do not walk away (or stop reading). The girls who have FGM done to them do not have that option and unless you stay and find out about the suffering they endure, you are not in a position to help them. FGM is everyone’s business! I am making it my business. Because, had I been born a girl (and this is for all men to contemplate), I would have been standing here as a survivor of FGM and all the horrors that entails. FGM is everyone’s business—the world is evolving and changing faster than we think. It is racing towards becoming one community. This wonderful country of ours is the most generous and welcoming host in the world. The varied social make up of today’s Britain, is a fair reflection of any place on this planet. Throughout our British history, we have welcomed and became enriched with wonderful and, vibrant cultures, foods and exotic delicacies, arts and music; and the unfamiliar, became a familiar part of everyday life for the receiving generation. We, here in Britain, have also over the years, received from all corners of the world and benefited from elements vital to our existence, such as 13 doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers. Those arrivals may have seemed unfamiliar to the receiving generation at first glance, but they quickly became familiar; and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren became subsequent generations of our beloved nation. Every generation is blighted by danger and harm. Occasionally the danger may, at first, seem unfamiliar; and burying our heads in the sand is not an option. FGM may seem unfamiliar to some of us, but it’s been the scourge of girls, for thousands of years. FGM is a crime, FGM is a grave injustice, FGM is a subjugation of women. It is the responsibility, of every single one of us, to eradicate this horrific and inhumane practice from the whole world: • We must eradicate FGM by law and campaign for it to be illegal everywhere in the world; • We must eradicate FGM through raising awareness; and • We must eradicate FGM through empowerment and education. However, we must remember that the purpose of education is to get rid of your own ignorance first before educating others. It is common knowledge that in some countries in the developing world, the welfare of the citizens is not a priority for the government. The citizens of those countries are children of their time and environment. It is common for them to starve to death and there is nothing that they can do about it. It is common for them to be so poor that they can’t afford to buy an aspirin and there is nothing they can do about it. It is common for them to be deprived of basic education. It is common to be forced to marry; it is common to be a child bride; it is common to be oppressed, humiliated and subjugated; and it is common for a little girl to be dragged behind a bush and have her genitalia mutilated for no valid reason and there is nothing she can do about it because she happens to be a child of an environment that does not have an NSPCC helpline. There is nothing they can do about what is common practice in their environment. But we can. We are in a privileged position, because we, by a stroke of luck are the citizens of the most civilized country in the world; and a leader in the world on human rights, equality, fairness and justice. A country that puts the welfare of its citizens at the very top. FGM is a nasty, vile practice that is ruining the lives of women. We all need to muck in and dispose of it.

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