International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Throughout WellShare’s history and growth, we have demonstrated our commitment to understanding the particular health conditions and realities of the communities we serve and creating opportunities to strengthen access to health education and services.

Concerned with women’s health, WellShare International has joined the ranks as one of four community-based organizations committed to educating and informing communities on the health risks and criminal penalties associated with a practice known as female genital cutting, or FGC. Organized by the Minnesota Department of Health, the purpose of the Prevention and Outreach Working Group is to unite stakeholders and impacted community members to gather information, coordinate culturally relevant interventions and offer further recommendations for prevention and engagement with communities impacted by FGC in Minnesota.

To that end, WellShare partnered with a local mosque to host focus groups and better understand Somali Imams and community leaders’ opinions and perceptions about the practice of FGC towards Somali women and girls. Our community health workers have also led one-on-one conversations with over 130 Somali women to better understand their experiences with FGC, hear their opinions about the traditional practice, and use that information to create educational materials for the community.

Among Somali community members, the health risks and emotional trauma inflicted by female genital cutting practices are well known. The practice is broadly defined to include all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Around the world, approximately 200 million women and girls have experienced female genital cutting, and in Somalia around 98 percent of women and girls undergo some form of FGC. [1] Complications from the procedure can last a lifetime, including frequent infections and impacts on fertility. Through global outreach, attitudes towards the traditional practice are slowly changing. Our Community Health Organizer, Adar Kahin, is optimistic that as the community continues to learn more and discuss the harms associated with FGC, more people will say “no” to the practice and it will stop happening.

February 6th is International Day of Zero Tolerance towards female genital cutting. If you are interested in learning more about female genital cutting and the efforts of the MDH Female Genital Cutting Working Group, visit their website here: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/refugee/fgc/index.html

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This project was made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health Refugee and International Health Program, through an appropriation from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

[1] United Nations, International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation,  http://www.un.org/en/events/femalegenitalmutilationday/index.shtml

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