Female genital mutilation prevention conference held in Dublin

Jamie McCarron

AkiDwA, Ireland’s network for migrant women, held a conference aimed at combatting FGM, last Tuesday in the city centre.

Approximately 40 people from various occupations attended the event in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission building in Dublin 7 to hear speeches and Q&A panels from physicians, victims, and activists.

The organisation warns that the number of girls at risk here continues to rise despite FGM being made illegal in Ireland in 2012.

Speakers included Senator Ivana Bacik, leader of the Labour Party in the Seanad, and Aidan O’ Driscoll, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality.

They were joined by representatives from Concern, the Cork Migrant Centre and the Irish Family Planning Association, during the five and half hour long conference.

“The conference will stir up discussion in relation to FGM and violence against women. I don’t believe that Irish people know enough about FGM,” Ashimedua Akonkwo, chairperson of AkiDwA told The College View.

The organisation estimates that 5,795 women and girls in Ireland “have to deal with the consequences” of FGM, which the World Health Organisation defines as any procedure that involves the removal of the external female genitalia.

FGM has no medical benefits and the tradition, which is practised in Africa and Asia, can cause long-term health issues and psychological disorders. A study of Kurdish girls who were forced into FGM showed that 44 per cent of girls had developed PTSD and 30 per cent had forms of depression. AkiDwA warns that consequences could be similar for survivors living in Ireland.

Mariama Bah, a community health ambassador, and FGM survivor spoke openly about how her mother forced her into the ritual, telling her “That is the tradition and you have to go through with it.” After relocating to Ireland she received genital reconstruction surgery and tearily told the audience how “I feel truly at home for getting the operation here, even though I’m in Direct Provision.”

According to the organisation’s website, the conference seeks to build dialogue in Ireland’s migrant communities by exposing the myths that still surround FGM and provide a platform to address the challenges in communications about the issue.

AkiDwa, derived from the Swahili word for sisterhood, was founded in 2001 and has since worked with local and national authorities to provide training to Gardai, social workers and health workers on how to sensitively talk to those affected by FGM, as well as other campaigning on behalf of migrant women.

Jamie McCarron

Image Credit: Isabella Finn