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 That is an outdated worldview which must be broken down.
We can certainly commend all health officials working on the ground level to abolish these cruel rituals in countries such as Egypt but it really is up to the religious leaders of the world to unite with great determination to help abolish this cruel practice; a practice that has no solid historical evidence to suggest that this can be done in the name of the name of God.
Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, known affectionately to many, as 'Mama Efua' was a shining light in the movement to end FGM, dedicating her life to the eradication of the practice. Often referred to as the mother of the end FGM campaign, she fought for decades and battled to ensure that FGM stopped being a minority issue that was ignored to an issue was recognized as a priority by governments and policy makers around the world.
There is something undeniably wrong with people who feel that they're not feminists but they believe in women's rights. Or they're not feminists but they believe in the strength of women. Or they're not feminists but they believe that women shouldn't be treated like crap by men. Or they're not feminists but they want to feel like their voice matters.
This summit, attended by Heads of State, ministers and experts from all over the world is an opportunity to do so. While I am there, I will be thinking of women like Aliah from Yemen, who tried to run away from her new 30-year-old husband when she was 16, only to have her family beat her and force her back. Years later, those same widespread beliefs and traditions held in her community then forced her to marry off her own 16-year-old daughter. As we gather at the summit we must remember stories like these. These practices violate the fundamental rights of women and girls. Making child marriage and FGM illegal is critical. But it's not enough if nothing is done to challenge strong-held beliefs passed down through generations.