If we’re to enable women to lead safe dignified lives, we must challenge the harmful traditions and abuse that have affected the lives of women and girls for generations. Our aim is to therefore actively socially and economically empower these women. We want women and girls to no longer be considered as property and instead face healthier, more empowered futures.
To do this we must cover a range of factors. We need to actively:
1. Increase knowledge about FGM
Perhaps the greatest challenge is lack of knowledge. The vast majority of the women we work with have very low levels of literacy and often little to no knowledge of their rights and the true teachings of Islam regarding marriage and FGM. This makes them incredibly vulnerable to such violence and unaware of how to change their lives for the better. Communities instead require training – including basic literacy and health education – to know the risks of FGM and their rights. They also need to know that the Qur’an explicitly teaches us to respect men and women equally and preserve our health and wellbeing.
2. Challenge socio-cultural norms
Without a change in socio-cultural norms, community members will still carry out FGM. We need to work with local women, religious leaders and other key figures in the community – such as health workers – to raise awareness and speak out against harmful practices at Friday sermons and other gatherings.
3. Financially empower women
In addition to raising critical awareness of women’s sexual and social rights, women must also be empowered economically to break the negative cycle of dependence. Literacy and skill-based training, as well as financial and technical support, can enable these women to start small businesses and support themselves. We need to encourage women to be financially independent, to increase their confidence and show them that they must stand up for their rights. By providing and developing alternative forms of income for female cutters, such as animal rearing, opening small businesses and developing forms of trade, we can offer financial independence to enable women to take control over their own lives.
We need to speak out and work with communities to tackle FGM. It’s not going to be easy; things won’t change overnight. But we have to continue the struggle to protect women against FGM. Women in Hargelle and across the globe deserve better.
Take the first step towards tackling FGM. Help raise crucial awareness in your community by pledging to deliver a khutbah at your local mosque or community centre. The change starts here. Save a life, take action today.