Guest post: Teen campaigner Fahma Mohamed's message to Michael Gove on FGM
17-year-old student Fahma Mohamed is at the centre of the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Following a meeting with her on Monday, Michael Gove agreed to write to all head teachers, reminding them of their duty to protect schoolgirls, as well as agreeing to consider how FGM education could be delivered in an age-appropriate way in the classroom.
Today, Gove is due to visit Fahma's school. In this guest post, she describes her hopes for the meeting, and explains why it is so important that proper education on FGM is delivered.
Campaigner and Young Trustee, Integrate Bristol
Posted on: Fri 28-Feb-14 11:58:08
(14 comments )
It's been such a crazy, whirlwind few weeks and I am still pinching myself. The support we have received is so heartening; it makes it all feel so worthwhile. There were times over the last few years that we thought we'd never get our message out there - yes, each project had a lot of attention, but if we are to eradicate FGM, we need to be talking to the parents of the next generation, and that's the message we wanted so desperately to get across to Michael Gove on Monday. The answer to ending FGM - and all forms of violence against women and girls - is education.
Ban Ki-moon understood, and having his support was such a boost. And Malala Yousafzai understood. She knows the power of education, and when we heard that she was backing Integrate Bristol's campaign, we were thrilled, honoured and very proud. Integrate Bristol really is our charity – I mean, the young people's charity. Everybody is talking about me now, but there are 150 of us and each one has played a part in what has happened these last few weeks - we didn't just pop out of nowhere! We have made an award winning film, been on Newsnight, organised and hosted a conference at Bristol University inviting 300 delegates and last summer, we wrote and performed a play called My Normal Life. And there's still much more too. The group started with four terrified girls writing poetry, and the journey that took us to Michael Gove has been extraordinary and hugely empowering.
Gove will see how easily young people can talk about difficult issues, how they have opinions and how they are able to challenge the patriarchal attitudes that allow abuses like FGM to continue. And he will see that teachers know how to deliver age appropriate education. I really hope he understands how vital it is that schools all over the country tackle these issues.
I am proud to be the face of this campaign, but all my friends involved with our charity have worked incredibly hard too, for what seems like a lifetime. Some of them for seven years – which, when you're 17-years-old, really does seem like a lifetime!
When I met Michael Gove on Monday, I wasn't at all nervous. We had already met quite a few politicians and ministers – they are just normal people with powerful jobs. Jane Ellison has been amazingly supportive, as has Lynne Featherstone, and both have worked hard to produce positive change. The introduction of the ICD code (International Code of Disease) felt like a huge, huge step forward, so we were hopeful that Gove would listen too - he is, after all, the Minister of Education.
The meeting was interesting - we had to work really hard to get our point across. It felt like such a victory when he finally agreed to sending out a letter to all head teachers. We were all so relieved and so happy. He agreed to contact every single head teacher in the UK, primary schools and secondary schools and get FGM training in schools. However he said he needed guidance and he wanted our opinions on how pupils should be taught about FGM in schools... which is why he's due to visit our school today!
He will see how easily young people can talk about difficult issues, how they have opinions and how they are able to challenge the patriarchal attitudes that allow abuses like FGM to continue. And he will see that teachers know how to deliver age appropriate education. I really hope he understands how vital it is that schools all over the country tackle these issues.
We believe that teachers and head teachers all want to do what is right for their students - they just needed a bit of a prod, and some confidence. And since the announcement that Gove has agreed to the letter, we have received many emails from schools asking us to give peer education sessions or to speak in assemblies. Schools are already listening.
So where do we go from here? Well, the older ones in our group are already delivering peer education sessions in other schools – we want to do even more of that. We're working with a primary school in Bristol to make a media resource for Year 6 children which is sensitive and age appropriate. We want to develop more educational resources, especially now schools are listening and ready to act and talk about FGM.
As our song Buckle Up says, “If a girl needs help, who's gonna to have the conversation?”. FGM, like all forms of abuse, is everybody's business, regardless of race, gender or religion.
By Fahma Mohamed
You have been truly inspirational! Persuading Michael Gove is no easy thing to do. Congratulations, and here's hoping that more and more girls will be staying intact thanks to you and your friends' efforts.
Very, very well done Fahma! Your hard work and dedication are inspirational.
People say teenagers don't care about the rest of the world. Take one look at what Fahma has done and tell me if you still think that's true.
You should be extremely proud of what you have achieved so far...it is inspirational and hopefully the beginning of the end of fgm in the uk. Well done to all of you.
well done. of course it can be done age appropriately - it's not blumming pornographic or 'rude' if a female body is involved it's an important issue and vital the conversations are had.
i'm a teacher and would be perfectly comfortable to deliver this and can totally see that teens would be able to handle it and to be able to analyse it's routes in patriarchal control. could bring up some really, really interesting conversations and could be contextualised within other repressive practices in a variety of cultures to avoid it being seen as 'just those muslims' or 'it's only foreigners' type nonsense. can see why the likes of gove wouldn't fancy kids having genuinely political conversations though. think he prefers our young compliant, complacent and conforming rather than questioning, analytical and aware of the dynamics of power
How did the visit go?
You are doing an amazing thing, Fahma.
To be doing the right thing intelligently and decisively is a great achievement.
Go Fahma! What a fantastic campaign; and how totally incredible it is that we live in a world, in the year 2014, where barbaric practices like this - more suited to the year 1014 - can still take place! Enough!
I'm so glad this issue is getting the attention it deserves. I've lived near a community that practices FGM (it's an open secret) for years. As a primary school teacher, my mother had concerns about several of the girls she taught over the years as se thought FGM had taken place, one of them was later hospitalised.
When she tred to raise these concerns no one wanted to hear them. She came home in tears over it.
Thank God politicians are finally willing to discuss it and help stamp it out!
Fahma, you and your fellow campaigners are amazing!
This is brilliant. I was aware of the letter and the new ICD11 code but I wasn't aware they both had origins with one group. Amazing. Well done.
I listened to Weekend Womans Hour yesterday, they had a piece about their 'Power List 2014 - Game Changers' and I think Jenni Murray mentioned Fahma as someone who might be a candidate - and there was another FGM campaigner mentioned too.
Well done to Fahma and the rest of her group.
Fantastic!! I know teachers who are aware of what is going on but don't know how to "prove" what has happened.
I signed your petition. You are doing an amazing job!
Congratulations on you and your colleagues achievement. Another signatory here
I sincerely hope that Mr Gove and the educators in this country treat this issue with the same fervour and dedication that you and your peers have.
It truly would be a disgrace if the pearl clutchers in our society 'not wanting
their princess young girls unlikely to be at risk to be scared' allowed this hard fought opportunity for change to be forced into the shadows.
I wish you and the campaign all the very best.
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