Tag: female genital mutilation

Shamsa Araweelo has speaks out against female genital mutilation (FGM) on her TikTok and YouTube accounts to raise awareness among young people of the practices

Savera UK Youth: An Interview with Shamsa Araweelo

Shamsa Araweelo has speaks out against female genital mutilation (FGM) on her TikTok and YouTube accounts to raise awareness among young people of the practices
Shamsa Araweelo has speaks out against female genital mutilation (FGM) on her TikTok and YouTube accounts to raise awareness among young people of the practices

This International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation Savera UK Youth Advisory Board member Ayo Folarin interviewed female genital mutilation (FGM) survivor Shamsa Araweelo to talk about her experience and the work she is doing to raise awareness and help end FGM for good. Read Ayo’s interview with Shamsa below. 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure in which the female genitals are partially or totally removed, without health benefits or medical reasons. This is a violation of human rights and as a survivor of the practice, Shamsa Araweelo is working to raise awareness by talking about her own experience. Shamsa is currently training to become a police officer. She shared with us how she is still facing consequences from the procedure she had undergone 16 years ago, and despite her personal traumatic experience she is driven to advocate for change, with the aim to see FGM eradicated one day. Something that we all wish to see happening.

One of the campaigns Shamsa is passionate about, is changing the name of FGM to ‘female genital cutting (FGC)’. Explaining her reasons, Shamsa said she feels FGM doesn’t take into consideration how survivors might feel and perceive themselves as being “labelled mutilated”.

Shamsa, who is also a survivor of forced marriage, said: “The name doesn’t really change anything, the practice is still just as horrendous – you’ve just described them as mutilated.”

She shares her fears on how survivors may not seek professional help if they are constantly referred to as being mutilated, speaking on her personal experience. Shamsa explained struggled with it while growing up, which prevented her from attending her GPs, a gynaecologist or even the emergency room.

As we continue our conversation, we went more into depth on how FGM has affected Shamsa on a psychological and physical level. She said: “I was really insecure. I was terrified of speaking to anybody about it because there’s ‘shame’ linked to that procedure, if you talk about it it’s ‘shameful’, if you try to get it changed it’s still ‘shameful’. Keep it and just suffer basically.”  Her wider family were the perpetrators, with Shamsa’s mother strongly against FGM, but out of the country when it took place.

Talking about the aftermath, she tells us she did not resent her family members who carried it out. Shamsa said: “I was just confused. When I got to realise that it was a crime essentially and a child abuse, sexual abuse, I started to question my family.”  She was also able to confront her family member who held her down during the procedure when she was only six, to which they responded, ‘‘it is something we all did, we did not know any better” showing a lack of understanding of the gravity of what had happened.

Shamsa said: “I had to really sit back and think I’m talking to somebody who is traumatised and who has never had any type of help in any way, shape or form. There isn’t anything that I can say that will make them apologise or feel any type of sympathy or empathy as to what they did to me. It was very hard for me to deal with.”

Speaking about living with FGM, Shamsa refused to be intimate with anyone for a long time due to the procedure. She speaks on the hardship, of being sexually assaulted especially when FGM had been performed, causing great pain and a sense of violation.

Shamsa is still currently suffering due to FGM, which made her attend her GP, sharing that doctors and nurses do not get a lot of training, even though the practice is illegal in the UK. Shamsa describes the lack of training among professionals as a form of discrimination and institutional racism. She tells us she has encountered professionals who may not even know what FGM looks like, raising the question on how protection can occur for those who are at risk or a survivor. Shamsa speaks on the importance of more training for medical professionals, even if they number of victims of FGM is low, it is still vital.

Shamsa talks about FGM on her TikTok page

As well as calling for more education for professionals, Shamsa tells us even survivors she has spoken to who have undergone the procedure haven’t recognised FGM as a crime. She said: “Some didn’t even know that it was wrong and they live in the UK, because it’s so normalised and if you live within a community that normalises a type of abuse, you’re never going to think that it’s wrong until you hear somebody say it. Only when I started talking about it she said she never thought it was wrong – she’s 24-years-old.”

“I was absolutely gobsmacked but I shouldn’t be surprised because there’s not really much education on the topic. People talk about it because they want the attention and then it just dies out completely and the survivors are left to deal with the implications for the rest of their lives. No one is going to help, defend, so it continues to be normalised, it continues to be normal.”

It might be presumed that a survivor of FGM would receive support around their mental health and wellbeing, however, Shamsa reveals how she receives more support from her social media platforms – TikTok and YouTube, with viewers having the drive to educate themselves. She said: “I’ve received the most amazing support I could never have imagined. The kindness, men, women, doesn’t matter sexual orientation there is pure kindness.” Her videos and socials create a sense of community and empowerment for survivors, as they are able to see the support she gets opposed to hate, encouraging them to speak out without fear or receiving judgement, but worth being in recipient of love and respect.

Shamsa feels like professional support is “not accessible” for survivors and often finds survivors do not want to keep seeking support, as they are passed around so much, from one organisation to another. She shared her personal experience with us and said: “I was told to call an organisation. I did. They said ‘Okay, tell us your story’”. Shamsa explained she felt uncomfortable going into detail about her experience and instead asked for support, however they simply provided her with another number to call.

We asked Shamsa, as a trainee police officer what gaps she felt there were in the judicial system around cases of FGM, and what steps could be taken. She said trust between survivors, doctors and police needs to be built and made stronger, adding, it is hard for police officers to get involved in crimes against FGM, as they require medics to identify that an individual went through it recently, before they can intervene. Shamsa deems education on FGM among professionals and within communities as really important in ending the practice.

Shamsa talks to us about the discussions she has had about FGM with her seven-year-old daughter, who she describes as a “young activist”. Shamsa said, although the topic was not brought up by her, she spoke openly about the procedure she had to go through, to which her daughter replied “But mummy that’s so horrible why would they do that to you?” Shamsa said: “I was so proud of her. It was really sweet to see she understands.” Her daughter is now teaching her peers and teachers in school on what FGM is, showing how you can speak out on harmful practices at any age.

Shamsa ends with saying how women who had to endure FGM “are so strong, for not only have endured FGM, but having to live with the complications, and going to school, having full time jobs, having children, raising those kids and trying their absolute best to function.”

Written by Ayo Folarin, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board.

Members of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board

Savera UK Youth launch the ‘Orange Brick Road’ film

Members of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board
Savera UK Youth Advisory Board members. [Left to right] Hannah Gloudon, Malcolm Thwala, Elias Folarin, Ayo Folarin and Adele Leung
Savera UK Youth aims to raise awareness and educate other young people about ‘honour’-based abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (harmful practices). As part of this campaign, we premiered our ‘Orange Brick Road’ film, at Liverpool John Moores University on Monday 14th November 2022, before it was released online. We hope to reach a wider audience, educating

Audience members watch Savera UK Youth Advisory Board member Adele discuss the filmmaking process of the Orange Brick Road project
Savera UK Youth Advisory Board Member Adele Leung presents on the filmmaking process of the Orange Brick Road film

people of all ages about harmful practices. 

Before the film began, guests were welcomed into the room; the walls filled with Savera UK Youth’s poetry, art and photography. Displaying our art around the room showed our guests the different creative techniques we use to get our message across.

Savera UK Patron, Nazir Afzal OBE (Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, leading nationally on child exploitation, violence against women and ‘honour’-based abuse cases), shared his reasons for collaborating with Savera UK. Nazir echoed the importance of raising awareness and why educating others about harmful practices in school is vital.

Dr Hannah Baumeister (Lecturer of Law at Liverpool John Moores University) also joined us. She explained her journey to studying and researching harmful practices and how such practices are often treated by the law. 

Dr Hannah Baumeister, Lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University

As we introduced our ‘Orange Brick Road’ film, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) shared our stories about volunteering with Savera UK and the importance of the work. 

We’d like to thank the Merseyside PCC for kindly funding this project, and to our partners Liverpool John Moores University and John Moores Students Union, Nonconform, Natalie Denny and Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson. 

The premier came to an end with a question and answer session, and a commitment to continue raising awareness.

You can follow what Savera UK Youth and the Youth Advisory Board are up to by checking out our Instagram @SaveraUKYouth. If you would like to join Savera UK Youth, please contact [email protected].  

Written by Hannah Gloudon, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board Vice Chair

Savera UK Youth launches #ENDFGM Exhibition at Liverpool International Slavery Museum

The #ENDFGM Exhibition was created by Savera UK Youth and is intended to help people learn about the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). Attending the exhibition is not only a matter of curiosity but, it could potentially save lives. Our event provides insight into this matter by illustrating the issue through the various exhibits that are on display. It also gives a good indication of the current impact of FGM and what action is necessary for a brighter future. The hope for the #ENDFGM Exhibition is to encourage individuals to contribute by, for example, sharing a post on social media or by joining our campaign to eradicate harmful practices like FGM.

The exhibition was set up for UK Parliament Week in November 2019, in order to bring attention to harmful practices, particularly FGM. We are grateful to the International Slavery Museum and Merseyside PCC Emily Spurrell, for supporting Savera UK Youth in allowing us to spotlight our message as we mark International Zero Tolerance Day for FGM 2022 (Sunday, 6th February).

So, what is female genital mutilation (FGM)?

FGM is a procedure that involves the total or partial removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. FGM causes injury to the female genital organs and has no health benefits; additionally, it can cause major psychological trauma.

The person carrying out the procedure often is not medically trained and does not use sterilised equipment. It is also important to note that often times the people close to the person receiving the procedure, family and/or community, are regrettably involved.

What is the aim of the #ENDFGM Exhibition?

This exhibition is incredibly important in informing people about what FGM involves and the effects it can have. Using a combination of visual imagery and written pieces was imperative for us as the use of a variety of methods is useful when trying to portray a message to a large and varied group of people, as different individuals have different ways of learning.

The Exhibition will be on display between Friday, 4th February and Sunday, 27th February 2022

How do you expect people to campaign against an issue they are unaware of? That’s the question that came to our minds when trying to lay the groundwork for the Savera UK Youth campaign to #ENDFGM. Knowledge is one of the most valuable things we have in our society as without shining a light on a topic it is very difficult to get people involved, and the support of the general public is vital for us to accomplish our goal to permanently eradicate FGM.

The exhibition was created after Savera UK Youth worked with photographer Andrew ‘AB’ Abrahamson to learn valuable photography skills and members also wrote poetry and created stop-motion animation videos after sessions with artist Joanne Tremarco and poet and Savera UK survivor ambassador Kiara Mohamed (learn more about these workshops here).

About the exhibition, a member of the Savera UK Youth Advisory Board said: “It is unbelievable how far we have come with this exhibition, to think that it began with the National FGM Centre. During the years, my knowledge around harmful practices has improved, and we have had the opportunity to express this through poetry, performances and photography.

“Those pieces of art have been created with the hope to inspire and encourage others to acknowledge those practises, using a different approach, as we are aiming to raise awareness among young people. We strongly believe that using art to do so is more powerful than just words, helping us to convey our message and encourage others to join us into our journey of speaking out.”

We hope you join us in our endeavour to #ENDFGM and learn more by visiting the #ENDFGM Exhibition at the International Slavery Museum, where it will be on display between Friday, 4th February and Sunday, 27th February 2022.

Written by Elias Folarin, Savera UK Youth Advisory Board