Save Acton Clinic

Leading expects believe that there are currently 200 million women and girls who are survivors of Female Genital Mutilation in the world today. FGM is deliberate mutilation to the female genitalia, which consists of either partial or full removal of the criterions and can bring serious impact to a women’s physical and mental health. Despite the practice of FGM being illegal across the UK, there were 8,656 treated or reported cases by the NHS between April 2016 and March 2016.

Although latest statistics showcase that FGM is prevalent in the UK it was announced in January that the pioneering FGM specialist Acton Clinic would be set to close at the end of this month (24th March); despite the fact that the clinic has supported over 1,000 women giving specialist treatment for the effects of both the physical and emotional trauma left behind from FGM.

With FGM being commonly practiced on girls who are from the West African community, many of the women and girls have the added problem of not only a language barrier but also the mindset that FGM is a passage into womanhood. In these communities both men and women support FGM even with the acknowledgment of the risks and the repercussions it can have. Now imagine how hard it must be for a young girl or even a woman stepping out of her community in order to seek help, mixed in with the physical and psychological trauma that FGM brings to a woman.

Unlike most health specialist Acton Clinic do not work on referrals so any girl or woman who is a victim of FGM can offer services regardless of where in the country they live. Many of the specialist clinics in the country took practice from Acton Clinic who have trained many health professions in having a clear understanding, Acton clinic helped a clinic in Bristol open after they found that many of the women seeking help were travelling all the way from Bristol for the specialist treatment. Acton Clinic also offers both physical and emotional treatments for victims, run by women who are dedicated and experience women who have a deep understanding of the effects FGM causes and offer de-infibulations, which means they can ‘open up’ women who have undergone Type 3 FGM. Restoring natural urination and menstruation. You can now see why many campaigners are questioning the reasoning behind the funds being cut leading to the closure of Acton Clinic, were the council thinking of the women who will be effected by the closure of Acton Clinic or were they just thinking about the money they will be saving. Many people what to know what are the plans for supporting the women of FGM after the closing of Acton Clinic, is there even a plan?

Hoda M Ali is a survivor of FGM and is also a NHS sexual health nurses, referring many of her patience to Acton Clinic. At the age of 7, Hoda was cut, along side her younger sister. Both herself and her sister had type 3 FGM and have had many severe health implications as a result. Hoda explains, “We were lucky, unlike many other girls in my community my mother was able to afford for us to have an anesthetic for the area, I didn’t feel the pain of the cut but the pain came after and I remember it just felt like I was on fire.” She adds, “ From the age of 13 I have had many serious health conditions as a consequence from my cut. I was unable to pass my period through properly which caused a large build up of blood in my stomach, which had to be drained every month. Because of the civil war I was flown to Italy for my treatment where doctors did not understand what had happened to me because they had not seen or known about FGM before. At the age of 17, after number of different operation I had my first natural period and I owe all to the doctors who had worked so hard to save me. “

When Hoda was given the all clear she moved to England where she trained to be a nurse so that she could give back to the people who saved her. Hoda now campaigns against FGM and making sure all health professionals are aware of the signs of FGM and how to treat it. Since 2014 it has been mandatory for all health professionals to record all cases of FGM, a bill Hoda campaigned to be passed.

However after being clear for 10 years Hoda once again was hit by the repercussions of her cut. She says “After meeting my husband and trying to start a family, we had a lot of troubles trying to fall pregnant so we turned to IVF, six weeks into my pregnancy I lost the baby.” She adds, “My body didn’t miscarry normally and I was in hospital for 5 weeks, because my body could not cope with the miscarriage. I have now been told that if I were to try for another baby it would probably kill me. Because of FGM I am unable to have children.”