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Hundreds of girls in Hackney in danger of disfigurement warns charity

PUBLISHED: 15:30 13 December 2013 | UPDATED: 15:30 13 December 2013

Hawa Sesay, Merissa Kanu and Haja Sesay at a conference organised by the Hawa Trust last Friday to campaign against the practice of female genital mutilation.

Hawa Sesay, Merissa Kanu and Haja Sesay at a conference organised by the Hawa Trust last Friday to campaign against the practice of female genital mutilation.

Archant

Hundreds of girls in Hackney could be at risk of an archaic disfigurement practice according to a charity tackling the issue.

Hawa Sesay, was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 13 in Sierra Leone and set up her charity Hawa Trust, in Homerton Road, to raise awareness of the brutal tradition – which involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.

Horrific

Last Friday, she hosted the borough’s largest ever FGM event,at Kingsmead Community Hall, Kingsmead Road, Homerton, which brought together a panel of experts to discuss how to tackle the horrific custom.

She said: “About 700 to 800 people could be affected in Hackney. I want to achieve awareness among people.

“It affects enjoyment of sex, increases complications in childbirth and increases the risk of vaginal infections including thrush.

“Even if parents are against it, grandmothers and good samaritans will sometimes take their daughters and say they need to undergo FGM.

“People can get 14 years in prison if they do it and will not be able to to come back to the UK.

“We are campaigning against it worldwide. I’ve been a Hackney resident for more than 20 years so wanted to do more in this area.

“Hackney has people from many countries which carry out the act such as Sierra Leone, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea, Gambia and Kurdistan.

“At the end of each month I run a youth group and I teach girls about FGM and tell them what signs to look out when they visit their mother countries.”

Dr Comfort Momoh, a specialist in FGM and public health who gave the keynote address at the event, said: “We want to reach out to the community. It’s about changing mind sets.

“We have to be realistic and gain support from the community to make people understand FGM and the complications that can be caused by it.”

Hawa Trust youth advocate Merissa Kanu, 25, said: “Campaigning against FGM is important for several reasons. First and foremost, I’m culturally and morally against young girls being cut.

“It’s written nowhere in the Bible and the Quran so no-one can justify it on religious grounds. It’s written in the bible that boys should be circumcised but not girls.

“It does not just harm girls physically but emotionally as well. We have had a few girls who have had it done. It’s very rare for girls to have it done here. Sometimes when people go on vacation, they will have it done then.”

Anyone affected by FGM can contact the Hawa Trust by emailing hawadsesay@yahoo.co.uk.


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