We told the Prime Minister to ‘grow a pair’ on Newsnight- now it’s time to end FGM with education

Muna Hassan, one of the young campaigners working with Integrate Bristol was shocked when she found out that girls in the UK were going through female genital mutilation (FGM).

“When I heard about FGM, I thought it was a bank. Like the new HSBC, you know? When I found out what it actually was, I was shocked. I was even more shocked that it was happening to British girls.”

FGM is the deliberate mutilation of the genitalia of women and girls. There are no benefits to this practice. It simply exists to control the sexuality of women and girls. Globally, it is believed that over 130 million women and girls have been subject to the practice.

We, the young people of Integrate Bristol have been leading the fight to end FGM in the UK. Last year, we launched a petition backed by the Guardian asking Michael Gove to write to all schools about FGM. Within weeks, we had gained over 230,000 signatures, the support of Ban Ki-Moon and Malala and we won the battle with Gove.

The young people of Integrate Bristol

We cannot be stopped. We’ve dealt with a lot of rubbish over the years, but now we’re so strong that we cannot be silenced. Really. From telling the Prime Minister to ‘grow a pair and deal with FGM’ on Newsnight, to releasing a hit single in the summer, it seems like we’re finally winning the battle against FGM.

We really want FGM to end and the best way to end it is through education. In the UK, it is estimated that 130,000 women and girls have been through the practice, and 66,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk. If we don’t educate everyone about the dangers of FGM, then the cycle will just continue (and we cannot let 66,000 girls have their human rights violated in such a severe manner). We also have to educate and empower the next generation to see why FGM and all forms of gender based violence are wrong, so that they can make better, safer decisions for their daughters (and also so girls can be strong enough to rule the world).

As put brilliantly by Lisa Zimmermann, a teacher at City Academy Bristol and and our Project Manager:

“Education and empowerment is key to breaking the cycle. Once it’s broken once, it’s broken forever. We cannot end FGM if we don’t engage with the next generation. It makes no sense if we don’t educate teachers, parents, students, everyone. Education is one of our biggest weapons. I’ve seen the power that education has to break cycles and create change.”

We at Integrate Bristol are the generation who have said ‘no’ to FGM. The only way we’ve been able to do this is by being empowered through education. We know FGM is wrong. We know that our bodies belong to us. We know our rights. We can demand justice if they are breached. And we are fearless game-changers.

Without empowerment, without education, we would never be the strong, outspoken young people that we are. We want that for girls everywhere.

That’s why we’re holding a conference on ending FGM and gender violence through education. There will be empowering and informative lessons on challenging issues, as well as workshops on effective safeguarding and difficult conversations. As we’re a group of very ENERGIZED young people, there will be singing, dancing and comedy — it promises to be a fun filled day. To register to attend this free conference, visit here for more information.

It’s time to end FGM. The practice is the most serious form of violence against women and girls, and it has existed for far too long. We’re going to be the generation where FGM ends forever. We’ve started a revolution to end FGM and all forms of violence against women. You NEED to join us.

With education, society can learn to stop creating the narrative for girls, and girls can create their narrative themselves.

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