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'Barbaric female genital mutilation' rife in London, warns campaigner
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Fulham Chronicle
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A CHARITY worker who was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child is campaigning to stop the atrocity in West London.
Sagal Osman helped set up charity Good Efforts for Health and Well Being after voluntarily helping women affected by FGM seek medical help since 2010.

She won an award for her work at this year’s Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre's annual awards.

Mrs Osman, who lives in White City, says awareness is key to stopping the ‘barbaric act’, which is rife among the area’s Somali population. She welcomed the NSPCC’s hotline which launched this week to protect girls aged five to 15 at risk.

"The best thing is awareness and education. These women need a chance to speak themselves and know the benefits of not having FGM,” said Mrs Osman. "We have to show them how many people die and are ill from it. We need to work with the mothers and get them talking to their neighbours."

The charity, in partnership with African Women’s Centre, works with gynaecologists at the West London Centre for Sexual Health based at Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham.

Mrs Osman has helped 550 girls and women visit the clinic to treat urinary and menstrual problems and reverse the procedure in the past three years. There are around 50 women on her waiting list aged from 18 to 75.

FGM, also known as female circumcision, is illegal in the UK. Many young girls are often sent abroad in the summer holidays to have it done, but Mrs Osman said she has heard of it happening here in London too. According to the NHS, it is estimated 20,000 girls and women are at risk of FGM in the UK each year.

The ritual, which involves removing part or some of the female genitals, is a tradition among both Muslim and Christian groups from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They believe it reduces female sex drive and therefore sex outside marriage.

FGM can lead to urinary conditions, cysts, infections such as tetanus, gangrene and makes victims more susceptible to HIV and hepatitis B or C. The biggest battle to stopping it is talking about it.

"In our culture it is a taboo. People see sexual health and they’re scared, they’re ashamed. I have to explain, it’s not bad, these people want to help them. I have to breakdown these barriers and help the ladies to believe they can get help," said Mrs Osman.

She remembers when was cut. She was just five years old. It almost cost her life during the birth of her first child as it can narrow the vaginal opening. Mrs Osman was determined to spare her two daughters from the ordeal.

"My mum was a midwife fighting against FGM in a small village in Somalia. My mum wasn’t home and my father got his mother to do it to me, I was about five or six. I remember it well. My mum was very angry when she found out. My daughters are third generation and they have not had it done. We have to sop this FGM. It’s a taboo but we have to fight it for the young girls.

"I think the government needs to do more to support this and domestic violence. We need to build trust with the ladies and get them to share that with their friends and family and for their children. We also have to work with police and the hospital and the council. It’s also about helping older women as well, these people are suffering and have had it a long time."


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