WHAT IS FGM?
As defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Female genital mutilation (FGM) encompasses the range of procedures that involve partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
HOW FAR REACHING IS FGM?
According to WHO, more than 200 million girls and women who are alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. Recent research shows that FGM is a global issue practised on all continents except Antarctica.
In Australia 200,000 women and girls have been affected by FGM and 11 girls a day are at risk of FGM.
Activist and Survivor Advocate
My aim is to protect Australian girls from female genital mutilation and to support and empower survivors. I believe that all girls have the right to protection from abuse regardless of their colour, religion, or ethnicity.
My personal experience as both a survivor of female genital mutilation and as an African Australian woman gives me a clear direction. I advocate for female genital mutilation to be treated as a form of child abuse and gendered violence, but ensure that education campaigns do not result in the demonisation of individual families or communities who have traditionally practised female genital mutilation.
I founded the Desert Flower Centre Australia two years ago. The Desert Flower Centre Australia, a branch of the internationally recognized Desert Flower Foundation and located in Adelaide, South Australia, aims to offers holistic, comprehensive gynecological, urological and psychological treatment as well as reconstructive surgery for victims of FGM. The Desert Flower Centre also offers workshops and educational programs for FGM-affected communities, medical staff, teachers, activists, social workers, development aid workers, municipalities and NGOs.
Currently women impacted by FGM are struggling to find appropriate care from FGM-related side effects. They face discrimination, stigma and shame from health professionals who lack medical expertise in FGM. Many women are confronted not only with the short-term complications associated with FGM but long-term issues that arise when wanting to commence sexual relations or have children. FGM victims often must deal with being physically unable to have sex because their vagina has been stitched closed, having difficulty in passing menstrual blood, and pregnancy complications including miscarriage and the inability to safely give birth.
The Australian Medical Association notes that FGM survivors are likely to need significant, specialized medical care, particularly during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postnatal period. These issues often lead women to seek medical support, however, currently there are limited options to support the 53,000 to 200,000 women who have undergone FGM in Australia. Women are told that reconstructive surgery is not an option available in Australia, leaving the only option to travel overseas. It is this gap which has led to the inception of the Desert Flower Centre Australia. I believe that access to surgery and appropriate medical care for women who have faced sexual and physical assault through FGM is a human right. Desert Flower Centre Australia aims to provide psychological and holistic support for survivors in order to help survivors reclaim their bodies, dignity and sexuality.
The Desert Flower Centre seeks to open an inclusive space for free-of-charge medical treatment, counselling and education of Australian women, stakeholders and communities affected by FGM.
FGM is everyone’s responsibility to look out for girls who are in danger of violence in the form of female genital mutilation.
For more information about FGM in Australia, please visit my Facebook page.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO STOPPING FGM
You can help us to fulfil our vision for a world where girls have the right to grow into the women they were born to be.
YOU CAN START BY
Contact me for specialised FGM training for your organisation
Watch and share my Tedx Talk 'My Mothers Strange Definition of Empowerment'.
Following Khadija Gbla Cultural Consultancy on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.
Sharing information and raising awareness about FGM in your local workplace or school by talking to colleagues about how to protect girls from FGM.