Fatima Awil, a founding member of Youth For Change UK, and youth advocate for African women’s diaspora organization FORWARD, explains why involving young men and boys are essential in the fight against female genital mutilation.
Although it’s well recognised that boys and young men are crucial in ending the battle against FGM once and for all, the talk rarely translates into action.
I always feel disheartened when I attend a conference or an amazing event simply because there is always an abundance of girls and young women. Only once in a while do you spot a male head in the crowd.
Whenever I partake in FGM discussions, there is always that one person who passionately exclaims “we need more involvement from boys, and young men!”, but their words alone are unfortunately never enough to attract male participation—especially amongst boys and young men.
This of course begs the question: where are we going wrong? What is preventing men, especially those from affected communities, from getting involved to prevent an issue that affects them, whether they know it or not? From my perspective, there are three reasons why men and boys should be involved in eradicating female genital mutilation:
FGM is more than just a practice—it violates fundamental rights and is a form of child abuse
Choosing to tackle FGM, should have nothing to do with whether or not your sister or mother has been, or could have been affected. Since FGM is often a deeply taboo subject, it’s often unlikely for you to ever find out whether you know someone who has been cut.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs, for non-medical reasons. It takes away a part of a girl, which she can never get back, often resulting in physical and psychological damage. She has to carry that with her for the rest of her life. More than anything, it removes the freedom of choice over what happens to her body.
You are often an excuse for why this practice should not end
One of the root causes for and the continuity of this practice concerns men. Although FGM is carried out on women, it’s really performed for men; in effect it is another form of oppression. In essence, FGM controls the sexuality of the woman, so she is pure, marriageable and will be devoted to her partner.
What’s even crazier is that studies have shown when girls and women are asked why FGM is necessary—they point towards men. But at the same time, if boys and young men are asked, they will point back at the girls and women!
This is partially to do with the secrecy surrounding the topic of FGM. It’s been going on for so long people have lost their reasoning and instead naturally fall back on the social normality of the issue. If girls and boys actually discussed FGM freely and openly, we could challenge this. If more young men spoke out, they could set the record straight and help crumble another excuse used to cling to the practice.
Your voice matters – what are you going to do with it?
There are plenty of things you can do to get involved in the movement to end FGM. You can join amazing organisations which tackle the issue to kick start your campaigning experience. Keep a look out for future events, follow FGM organisations on social media, support and share FGM campaigns, educate yourself about the issues, and talk to friends and family to break the silence. You can also contribute your views to our Youth For Change website; your options really are endless.
The truth of the matter is boys and men are just as important to ending this issue as girls and women. We need your voices, so please don’t waste any time in joining the fight to see a world with zero FGM!