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Introducing Southwark’s first ambassador against female genital mutilation

6 February 2024

On the international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM), Southwark Council is proud to introduce Cllr Naima Ali as the borough’s first ambassador against this harmful practice today (6 February 2024).

FGM is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there's no medical reason for this to be done. It is also called female circumcision or cutting.

Cllr Naima Ali

Up to 6,000 women and girls are estimated to be affected by FGM in Southwark, which is markedly higher than that for London and England. The vast majority of local cases are among those over 15 years old. It's very painful and can seriously harm the health of women and girls. It can also cause long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health.

Southwark Council is committed to tackling all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) thorough a dedicated strategy that includes FGM. But no one organisation alone can tackle FGM. That’s why the council works closely together with health services, police, schools and community groups to protect and support those at risk.

Now, Cllr Ali will play a key role as Southwark’s FGM Ambassador to ensure that local partnership work reduces the prevalence, raises awareness, and guarantees that the right services are in place to support women and girls.

Cllr Ali has personal experience of FGM. She has worked with multiple organisations and campaigned tirelessly on the issue. She was appointed the Deputy Mayor of Southwark in May 2023.

She said: “In the depths of my past, I bore the scars of female genital mutilation (FGM). As a survivor, I faced unimaginable challenges in my early years. However, I refused to let those experiences define me. Instead, they became the catalyst for my determination to create positive change.

“My wounds became the source of my strength, propelling me on a remarkable journey from victimhood to leadership. Over the years, I have overcome numerous obstacles and dedicated myself to advocacy and community engagement. Today, as a councillor and the Deputy Mayor of Southwark, I stand as a testament to resilience and the power of transformation.

“I am very proud to be Southwark’s first FGM Ambassador. I am eager to share my story with a wider audience, as it reflects not only personal growth but also the strength of the human spirit in overcoming adversity. Together, we can raise awareness about the impact of FGM, inspire others facing similar challenges, and foster a dialogue on the importance of empowerment and partnership working.”

On the international day of zero tolerance for FGM, Cllr Ali was joined by councillors, council officers and support services for a local walkabout to raise awareness of the practice and where to get support.

Help is available if you have had FGM or you're worried that you or someone you know is at risk.

  • FGM is illegal in the UK.  If someone is in immediate danger, contact the police immediately by dialling 999.
  • If you are under pressure to have FGM performed on your daughter, please ask a GP, your health visitor, or another healthcare professional for help, or contact the NSPCC helpline.
  • If you have experienced FGM, you can get help from a specialist NHS gynaecologist or FGM service – please ask a GP, your midwife, or any other healthcare professional about services in your area.
  • You can find FGM Support Clinics based in London or across the UK from the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/national-fgm-support-clinics/.
  • If you are concerned that someone may be at risk, you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk
  • If you would like to report a crime anonymously, you can contact Crimestoppers, an independent charity who have an anonymous reporting service, on 0800 555 111 or their website here: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously

Different organisations are working to promote awareness and action around tackling FGM, in Southwark, London, and around the UK.

  • FORWARD (Foundation of Women's Health Research and Development) provides advice, one-to-one support and signposting to other services for women and girls affected by FGM and any other form of violence. They provide non-judgemental support to help you understand your options and provide you with the support that you need. FORWARD are an African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls in London and the UK. All their support and counselling services are now also available online and via telephone. You can call them on 0208 960 4000 or email them at support@forwarduk.org.uk.
  • The Dahlia Project is a health and wellbeing charity project working to prevent FGM. They provide a safe, confidential, and non-judgemental space where participants can discuss their experiences with trained counsellors, begin to understand the effects of FGM on their physical and mental health and rebuild their emotional wellbeing and resilience. You can call them on 0207 281 9478 or email them at dahlia@manorgardenscentre.org.
  • The Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) promotes awareness and action FGM, and work with women and girls of all ages from Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan backgrounds living in the UK , including lesbian, bisexual, and trans women. They offer services in Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Turkish, and English. You can call them on 020 7920 6460 or email them at info@ikwro.org.uk.
  • Keep the Drums, Lose the Knife are a community interest company based in Peckham, working to tackle FGM in the Sierra Leonean community in the UK and abroad. You can follow their work and contact them on social media here.
  • The Africa Advocacy Foundation is an organisation based in Catford, who run support activities for survivors of FGM, offering specialist one-on-one counselling and peer support group sessions. You can call them on 0208 698 4473 email them to find out more at info@africadvocacy.org.

Page last updated: 06 February 2024

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