FGM Awareness

Women’s empowerment is at the heart of Huda Organics. We are a female-owned company, and over 85% of our employees across London and Somalia are women. We are extremely proud of the fact that, as we grow our business, we are able to create more economic opportunities for women in Somalia. There is an indisputable correlation between women’s financial independence and increased autonomy. 

Although expanding women’s economic opportunities is important, it is far from the only thing required to eradicate the systemic inequalities that hinder women from becoming truly equal to men. With this in mind, we have resolved that it is just as important for us to maintain our fair and equitable business practices as it is to use our platform to raise awareness and campaign against the injustices that continue to oppress women. We need to do more, and we are making a pledge to our customers that we will. It is a pledge that we want to be held accountable for. 

One of the most important issues to us is ending FGM. FGM is one of the most barbaric and inhumane injustices perpetuated against women. Our stance on this is clear and unwavering: FGM is a violation of women’s most fundamental human rights. Women have the right to control what happens to their bodies and they have the right to refuse FGM. It is truly that simple and we refuse to accept any attempted justifications of this practice. 

Every year, an estimated 4 million young girls and women are at risk of FGM. The majority of girls cut are under the age of 15, with some as little as 1 or 2 years old being subjected to this trauma. As the overwhelming majority of victims are very young minors, they are often unaware of just how cruel, damaging, and discriminatory this practice is. FGM is a physically and psychologically harmful practice and one that women pay for not only with a lifetime of physical pain, but sometimes with their lives. 

FGM must end today. 

What is FGM?

FGM stands for female genital mutilation. It is sometimes referred to as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting.’ The term FGM encompasses all procedures involving the injury, and partial or total removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. 

How many types of FGM are there?

There are 4 main types of FGM.

Type 1: This type is known as a clitoridectomy. It involves removing part or all of the clitoris. 

Type 2: This type is known as excision. This type involves removing part or all of the clitoris as well as the inner labia (the lips that surround the vagina). Excision sometimes involves the removal of the labia majora (the outer lips).

Type 3: This type is known as infibulation. This type involves narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a seal. This is done by cutting and repositioning the labia. Infibulation may also include the removal of the clitoris. 

Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. This may include piercing, incising, scaping, and cauterising the genital area. 

What are the risks of FGM?

There are no health benefits to FGM. There are some dark corners of the internet claiming that FGM has health benefits, however, these claims are completely false. FGM only causes young girls and women harm. Although all forms of FGM incur some increased risk of health complications, this risk is arguably much greater with the more severe forms of FGM. 

Immediate complications include: 

  • Infections (incl. urinary tract infections)
  • Severe pain
  • Tissue swelling 
  • Fever 
  • Injury to surrounding genital tissue 
  • Shock 
  • Excessive bleeding 
  • Death

Long-term complications include:

  • PTSD, anxiety and depression. 
  • Continuous urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections)
  • Scar tissue
  • Vaginal problems (discharge, bleeding, itching, bacterial vaginosis, etc)
  • Sexual problems (pain during intercourse)
  • Increased risk of childbirth complications
  • Menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty passing menstrual blood)

Who is at risk of FGM?

FGM is carried out on young girls. Girls are most at risk between infancy and early adolescence, before they reach puberty. According to the World Health Organisation, FGM is predominantly practiced in Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa. FGM is also prevalent in some parts of the Middle East and Asia. It is estimated that around 200 million girls and women alive today have been victims of FGM. 

Unfortunately, Somalia has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world. Over 90% of all girls and women have suffered the indignity of the cut. The practice of FGM is still legal in Somalia. 

Although it is important to target FGM hotspots with awareness campaigns, education, and aid, it is critical to remember that this practice also occurs in Western countries, albeit in much smaller numbers. For example, there are around 137,000 women and girls living with the consequences of FGM in the UK, with another 60,000 girls under the age of 15 at risk. 

As such, it is irresponsible for us in the West to view FGM as a ‘foreign’ problem that does not affect us. It is a global issue that is right on our doorstep. 

Why is FGM performed?

We want to reiterate that we do not agree with or condone any of the social and cultural justifications given for performing FGM. That being said, it is crucial that we are aware of and understand the reasons why this practice continues. 

  • In some cultures, FGM is regarded as a rite of passage into womanhood and is considered a pre-requisite for marriage. 
  • FGM is a social convention that is tied to social acceptance and conformity. In some cases, there is enormous pressure to partake in FGM in order to be accepted socially and avoid rejection from local communities. 
  • FGM is believed to safeguard a girl’s virginity and marital fidelity, both of which may increase a woman’s marriagability. 
  • FGM is associated with rigid cultural ideas of femininity and modesty. It is believed that if girls and women are cut that they are clean, beautiful, and modest because their ‘unclean’ and ‘sexual’ body parts have been removed. 
  • FGM is believed to enhance male sexual pleasure at the expense of a woman’s. 
  • Some people and scholars believe that there is a religious justification for FGM (there is no evidence for this whatsoever).
  • FGM consolidates existing power structures and hierarchies. By positioning oneself as a local authority on FGM, one is able to exercise control over people and culture. 
  • In societies where FGM is practiced, it is considered a cultural tradition. This reasoning is used as an argument for its continuation. 
  • There is sometimes a financial incentive to perform FGM.

Who performs FGM?

As difficult as this is to comprehend, FGM is typically carried out by community elders, many of whom are women who have also been victims of FGM. In many cases, women are cut by people they know and trust – including relatives – or by the designated FGM practitioner in the community. It is also known that in other communities where FGM is prevalent, the cut is performed by traditional health practitioners, members of secret societies, herbalists, and barbers. 

Equally distressing is the fact that some qualified medical professionals, who are the most likely to be aware of the devastating health impacts of this practice, sometimes perform FGM. This has been dubbed the ‘medicalisation’ of FGM. According to recent data from UNFPA, around one in four girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 who have undergone FGM have been cut by a health professional. 

What instruments are used to perform FGM?

FGM is usually carried out with razor blades, scalpels, special knives, and even pieces of glass. Anaesthetic and antiseptics are rarely used, which means the girls and women suffer from incomprehensible pain during the procedure. 

In communities where Type 3 (infabulation) FGM is performed, girls’ legs are bound together to immbolise them for a period of 10-14 days to promote the formation of scar tissue. 

When FGM is carried out by medical practitioners, standard surgical tools are used. It is also assumed that an anaesthetic is used, which may lessen the immediate physical trauma of FGM. It does not, however, eliminate the long-term impacts of FGM. 

Signs that FGM might happen

In countries where FGM is less prevalent or illegal, it is critical to still be mindful of any signs that may indicate a child is at risk. These signs include:

  • A relative or someone known as a ‘cutter’ is visiting from abroad.
  • A special ceremony is set to take place where a girl is ‘prepared for marriage.’
  • A female relative, such as a mother, sister, or aunt, has undergone FGM.
  • A girl runs away or intends to run away. 

Signs that FGM might have taken place

  • A girl begins to have difficulty walking, standing or sitting. 
  • A girl suddenly, or after an absence, becomes quiet, anxious, or depressed. 
  • Reluctance to go to the school infirmary or have routine medical examinations.
  • A girl begins making more frequent and longer visits to the bathroom.

If you suspect that a girl is at risk of FGM, please phone the local authorities or the police immediately to inform them. 

In the coming months, we will be sharing more resources to help fight FGM, as well as sharing the work we are doing to do our part to eradicate this heinous practice. We welcome anybody that would like to work with us or provide us with more information on what we can do to help to contact us at: info@hudaorganics.com