Long-time ActionAid supporter and women's rights activist Emma Thompson is helping to raise awareness of what is a totally unnecessary practice and is encouraging people to take a stand and help eradicate female genital mutilation.
I have worked closely with Emma over the years and greatly appreciate her commitment and passion, particularly as an advocate for women's rights.
I have also been fortunate enough to join her on some of her travels to see ActionAid 'in action' in Africa; to see the difference ActionAid is making to women and communities living in crippling poverty.
One trip was to Liberia, where we were shocked by what we were told.
We can no longer turn a blind eye
Emma said: “I have, most unfortunately, seen and heard at first-hand about the devastating effects of female genital mutilation. The initial trauma, the high chances of infection, the hell of sex and childbirth, the loss of all sexual pleasure, the sheer violation of every natural and humane instinct – the stories I have heard beggar belief. We can no longer turn a blind eye.
“ActionAid’s work is impactful. We work very closely with communities. We educate boys and girls about how damaging female genital mutilation is for both sexes, finally. If we want to make a dent in this habit of mutilation, we have to support those long-term programmes, they’re the only thing that produces lasting change.”
It is not just their struggle but ours too
Emma's trip to Liberia gave her hope. "The country is led by a woman and I met many other courageous women struggling to change laws and overthrow barbaric customs. They are risking their lives in a struggle that will define the first decades of the 21st century. It is not just their struggle, but ours too," she said.
ActionAid supports communities across Africa to talk about the damaging effects of female genital mutilation, through providing training for traditional birth attendants, setting up forums for religious and community leaders and running boys and girls clubs.