Senator Ivana Bacik opened the AkiDwA Conference on FGM in October 2019 by calling on the Irish Government to commit the resources needed to develop a national action plan to eradicate all forms of the harmful traditional practice. FGM is estimated to have already affected more than 5000 women and girls living in Ireland.
Senator Bacik was responsible for bringing the Private Members Bill that outlawed FGM in Ireland seven years ago. Senator Bacik said she had been inspired to produce her 2012 Bill by AkiDwA’s decade of campaigning against genital mutilation. Senator Bacik said a National Action Plan is needed to guide Irish state agencies like Tusla, the HSE and Gardaí on how to build partnerships with communities in order to eradicate FGM.
AkiDwA‘s 2019 conference focused on the many challenges that NGOs face in communicating about FGM and highlighted effective strategies that have helped migrant communities to abandon it.
We heard moving accounts from FGM survivors whose lives have been marked by pain and trauma as a result of FGM, and AkiDwa’s Nenette Bouithy presented her research findings on the psychological impact of FGM on teenagers.
Nenette’s Master’s research assessed 21 studies of how FGM had affected women’s mental health. She found evidence that FGM can be a risk factor for developing post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders. However, she also found evidence that women who sought help from holistic care programs reported some benefits from participation, even when they chose not to have clitoral surgical reconstruction.
Dr. Edith Iheama from the Mojatu Foundation, a charity based in Nottingham, told us how Mojatu has been working with local and national authorities in the UK to make Nottingham Europe’s first City of Zero Tolerance For FGM.
Dr Iheama explained how Mojatu works with teachers, youth groups, parents and agencies in the UK to debunk the myths that still persist around FGM.
Representing Ireland’s Department of Justice & Equality was Secretary-General Aidan O Driscoll, who stressed that the Department’s recently completed reorganization had done much to strengthen its commitment to equality.
He thanked AkiDwA for decades of useful collaboration and confirmed the need for funding to be allocated to develop a National Action Plan to end FGM in Ireland.