Safe Hands for Girls
The survivors committed to ending FGM by 2030
3 million girls and women around the world are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) each year. 200 million women and girls across the world are already affected, including 503,000 in the US and 700,000 in Europe. FGM can cause serious physical and mental health effects, both immediately after the procedure and for the rest of affected women’s lives. Despite increased awareness of the harms of FGM around the world, resulting in the introduction of new laws banning FGM in several countries in the past decade, FGM remains pervasive, as the law alone is not enough to ensure its elimination.
Safe Hands for Girls was founded in 2013 to help end FGM, provide support to women and girls who are survivors of the practice and address its lifelong, harmful physical and psychological consequences. Founder Jaha Dukureh is a survivor of FGM, and a tireless advocate against the practice. She brought the issue to the attention of President Barack Obama in 2014 after starting a petition, and to the President of The Gambia in 2015 while filming for a documentary about her experience. This influenced the Gambia’s decision to outlaw FGM in 2015, one of her greatest achievements.
Working in both The Gambia and the US, Safe Hands for Girls creates greater awareness of FGM and other forms of violence against women through education and advocacy. Over time their mission has evolved to address other forms of violence against women and abuses of women’s rights that prevent many women from reaching their full potential. They are one of the few survivor-led organisation working in this area and are youth focused, empowering young people to end FGM in a generation.
Safe Hands for Girls visits schools across The Gambia to educate students on the consequences of FGM, training them to be Youth Leaders in the campaign to end FGM by 2030. One student, after receiving an education session on FGM spoke about the importance of knowing FGM’s potential consequences. “Those who are doing this act do not know the negative effects of it. For us as future leaders, when we are taught about the negative effects, we know to avoid it. We won’t do it to our children in the future.”
FGM is both a driver and symptom of gender inequality. Harmful social expectations of what it means to be a girl drive FGM and girls who have undergone FGM are more likely to drop out of school, have health problems and complications during pregnancy. By entering communities and encouraging open dialogue, Safe Hands for Girls are able to gain a better understanding of attitudes and beliefs surrounding FGM and therefore identify key obstacles to ending the practice. By both supporting survivors and preventing future suffering, they are working towards the elimination of FGM by 2030 and a more equal world.