Governments must ensure girls have knowledge of and support in exercising their own rights; a supportive environment where they can voice their concerns without fear of stigma or disbelief; assurance that they will not be re-victimised through a slow legal process; and girl-centred, specialist support services, if and when they are required.
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.
At the age of seven I was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). This did not happen because I was African or Muslim, but because I was female. I came back from that summer trip to Somalia to continue to live in the United Kingdom. By the age of 11, I had worked out that FGM was rooted in patriarchy and assumed that those tasked with leading this country would recognise this too, and care enough to protect girls like me. I also assumed that by the time I grew up I would be paid equally to men and be able to have a baby without affecting my career. But the older I got the more I lost faith that - without radical change - this equality would be something I would ever actually experience.
I want to make sure that anyone involved in this horrific practice, will be behind bars for a long-time. This is why someone in breach of a protection order can face up to five years in prison. This is in addition to laws already brought in - someone found guilty of assisting or performing FGM can face a sentence of up to fourteen years, whilst someone with responsibility of a child who has FGM performed on them, but failed to prevent the act could also face a sentence of up to seven years.
As we packed up our kit in the hot sun and Mary showed us the way back through the village and scarce trees to our car I thought about how hard it had been to hear Jane and Mary's stories, but was wowed by their powerful determination to end FGM and tell others about its dangers. Mary's final words to me are ones I'll never forget...
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.
At Plan, we've supported young people who have intervened to stop child marriages in Bangladesh, youth activists who have helped raise the legal age of marriage in Malawi, and in Pakistan, young campaigners successfully making sure that their provincial governments deliver on a promise of free and compulsory education.
The changing attitudes have to do with FGM now being considered a form of gender based violence and a violation of human rights. Although it is not automatically understood this way in certain parts of the country where FGM is still deeply entrenched in culture, we see more people understand the concept that even young girls have rights.
Because of entrenched cultural values, these women don't often feel empowered to seek medical help to have FGM reversed, or even to challenge the system and end up perpetrating the same violence on their daughters. The only way to break the FGM cycle is through education and engagement with the communities that still practice it.
We are so excited to be part of the BBC Three Comic Relief documentary, Stop Cutting Our Girls: A Comic Relief Special. We have been on a journey trying to publicise FGM. To go from learning about it amongst ourselves in a little room to talking about it on national TV is really exciting and we're all really proud of ourselves.