After the success of the FGM exhibition, launched as part of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6th February), Savera UK Youth Advisory Board wanted to expand on this exhibition and launch it in the North West, with photography and poetry by the young people.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that is embedded in cultural traditions across the world but it is recognised as a violation of human rights, is banned by the UN and is illegal in 30 countries, including the UK. However, 140 million women and girls around the world are living with the consequences of being ‘cut’ and a further 3 million girls are at risk of the practice each year.
The event was hosted in partnership with the Liverpool Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team who supported the cause. The exhibition opened with a performance developed by the young people and artist and performer Joanne Tremarco, which encouraged everyone to break the silence around harmful traditional practices.
The exhibition was then officially opened by Savera UK Founder Afrah Qassim and guest speaker Payzee Mahmod, ambassador of the Iranian & Kurdish Womens Rights Organisation (IKWRO). When speaking about the exhibition, Payzee said:
“As a survivor of FGM I am committed to raising awareness about this and other harmful practices which contribute to honour based abuse. We must challenge these practices and eradicate them on every level through education and training. In order for us to achieve this we must recognise and understand the complexities of ‘honour’ based abuse.”
The audience then listened to poetry about FGM from the young people, which was created with the support of Joanne Tremarco. Payzee shared her own experience of FGM and the ‘honour’ killing of her sister Banaz Mahmod. Savera UK Patron Nazir Afzal OBE closed the exhibition, bringing home the fact that harmful practices are a human rights issue and it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up against them.
There was also a special performance by the young people with music created by Savera UK Youth member Naomi Otubu. Naomi thought it was important to write a song about FGM because:
“It was important for me to write a song about FGM as I had and still do have strong feelings about the practice. Hearing the story from one of the survivors inspired me to get her message across through a song, as I feel a catchy song will drill the message into your head. So for anyone who wasn’t aware of FGM and has listened to my song they now know what FGM means and what it stands for.”
After a question and answer session with the guest speakers, the young people asked those attending to pledge to join the Savera UK Youth Advisory board, volunteer, join the Savera UK Youth #ImSpeakingOut campaign and share what they have learned and to fundraise for the organisation.
The aim of this project was to educate young people about FGM and the impact it has on those affected, while teaching them that culture can be beautiful but we can still challenge harmful traditions that violate human rights. The exhibition put a spotlight on these ‘hidden’ issues and showcased the poetry, performance and photography skills of the young people.
Savera UK Campaign and Youth Engagement Officer, Shauna Lacy, who works with Savera UK Youth said:
“I am running out of ways to say how proud I am of Savera UK Youth. They work so hard and they are passionate and dedicated to our cause. The work they have produced is incredible and I look forward to seeing the next project.”