Kerry Backs Bid to Stop Female Genital Mutilation

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12 October 2011
MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy, has pledged her support for a charity’s drive against female genital mutilation overseas. Kerry has backed Health Poverty Action when she met Somaliland campaigner Fatuma Ali during her UK visit to raise awareness on the issue. In July the Guardian reported the British government sending new guidelines to prosecutors to target families that take young girls abroad to undergo female genital mutilation.

While Kenya is the latest African nation to ban FGM, eight in ten women undergo the practice in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Somaliland, and Sudan. Ms Ali underwent FGM herself, but not her daughter Zeinab, as Fatuma resisted pressure from her own mother. She challenges traditional views that girls must undergo the procedure.

Girls who return to Somaliland from abroad feel obliged to accept FGM for fear of others scorning them. But Ms Ali stresses that Islam does not condone the practice and religious leaders with other community figures are citing this point as they strive to end female genital mutilation. Ms Ali’s campaign aims to educate everyone in the community involves whole com - men, women, young people and children of both genders - and the UN Population Fund will hold a major rally with Islamic scholars later this year, seeking FGM to be outlawed in Somaliland.

The meeting with the Kerry came after Fatuma’s talks with Dr Comfort Momoh, a consultant at St Thomas's hospital in Westminster, who has performed hundreds of operations here to reverse female genital mutilation. Kerry a co-founder of the all-party parliamentary group on Somaliland, said: “No girl anywhere should be forced to undergo female genital mutilation. I was pleased to meet Fatuma and give my support for Health Poverty Action’s efforts to eradicate this cruel practice.”

Ms Ali said: “I much appreciate that Kerry spared time in her busy schedule to hear about our work to challenge this tradition. Influential support from a member of the UK parliament encourages us to continue this campaign.”

Ms Ali also works as a midwife, supporting poor women at risk of death or serious illness in or after childbirth. Emergency care is particularly important in reducing maternal mortality. Three key factors are known as the three delays - the time taken to decide whether to get help, transport problems when going for help, and the lack of skilled staff, equipment and supplies once a woman arrives at a health centre or hospital.
In Somaliland, the charity has increased opening times at health facilities from four hours six days a week to round-the-clock services and almost quadrupled deliveries in health facilities from 21 per cent to 80 per cent.

Health Poverty Action is running a campaign entitled Mothers on the Margins, which seeks to tackle the disproportionate numbers of maternal deaths among indigenous women in developing countries. Worldwide about 1,000 girls and women die in pregnancy or childbirth every day, most of them unnecessarily. A significant number are from indigenous groups.

People in the UK can back the campaign at www.healthpovertyaction.org


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