The World Health Organisation has said that the practice of FGM "can end in one generation" and that is why it is so important we get involved in International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. It is sad that we have to have such a day, but it gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and unite in eradicating this barbaric practice.
FGM, like veiling is not a practice confined to far off lands. FGM continues to be practiced illegally on British born girls, with a case reported in the UK approximately every two hours. If FGM is carried out on a white child in Britain, it will be regarded as criminal - so why does this position shift when a Somali child is violated?
I managed to escape the cut. My father was an educated man and did not want his children to experience it. Sadly he died when I was a child, but by the time I reached the cutting age, I refused it because of his teaching and my mother gave me shelter and protection. Many of my friends were not so lucky. ..
Tackling FGM might be a slow and long process, but with every lesson learned we'll get a little bit further towards our goal. It's comforting to see the willingness among all agencies in this country to end new cases of FGM. We are certainly going in the right direction, yet we need to ensure that all the willingness and commitment is not just talk...
Medical school is of course the traditional route for providing prospective doctors with the core knowledge and tools for the practice ahead. By not including FGM as a part of this process, information of even the basic nature of FGM is not being disseminated across the profession. A condition that affects over 130,000 women across the UK should be known to students who can also come into contact with patients that have undergone FGM or at risk of the act.
Since launching at the end of June 2013, the NSPCC's FGM helpline has received over 700 contacts from the public and professionals, nearly 300 have been so serious they have been referred onwards. One call involved a member of the public who had called with concerns for a young child who was absent from school for a few months for a holiday in Nigeria. Suspicions arose as the child's mother gave varying explanations for the absence and on her return to school the child's demeanour and mood had changed and she complained about painful toilet trips.
Today is a vital date for London not least because in the UK an estimated 103,000 women have undergone FGM and 20,000 girls are at risk... We must seize the opportunity to empower millions of women and girls around the world. For a long time international development has been seen as something 'we' do to the rest of the world. That is an outdated worldview which must be broken down.