Author: June Eric-Udorie

We need to talk about Black Women NOW

Precilla* was raped by her cousin when she was nine and later by an uncle. She never spoke about it. Why? Her father and other men in her family were always talking about protecting her. But instead of protecting her, they were raping her. Confused, she chose to remain silent. The reality for many black women is silence and the reasons why they choose this are complex. For many black women silence means survival. As Feminista Jones says, the bodies of black women have been used for labour and exploited to serve the needs of others while our needs are swept under the carpet. We are ‘othered’ – taught to be silent about the problems we face, reminded that racism is the bigger issue, not sexism or violence. Black girls are taught that you do not talk about problems. As a black woman, you deal with it. Loyalty to the “community” reigns supreme, even when the community (brothers, fathers and sons) are often responsible for violence and abuse.  As a result, many women and girls remain silent about …

Zero Tolerance: An Interview with Leyla Hussein

Leyla Hussein, an anti-FGM campaigner based in the UK, speaks with a real sense of what is needed to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK. A survivor of the practice, Hussein has spent the last twelve years fighting against the practice. FGM is a practice that has existed for thousands of years and involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of women and girls. Many claim it is ‘cultural’ but it is a deep rooted form of violence. Hussein says, The reason why myself and 140 million women were forced to go through FGM is because we are female. That’s what we’re guilty of. That’s what I’m guilty of. We live in a society scared of vaginas. I fell in love with the attitude towards FGM in Kenya, they call it violence and a vagina, not a cherry, as we do in the UK. They say it as it is. We need to say it as it is. Over the past several years, the movement to end FGM in the …

#UseYourHead To End Gender Based Violence

“Can you hear that sound? Rising from the silence. Take a look around! See the people of the future! Yeah!” The above words were written by extraordinary, dedicated and passionate young people of Integrate Bristol. Integrate Bristol is a youth led charity that works towards equality and integration. For seven years, Integrate Bristol has been at the forefront of the movement to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and all forms of gender based violence. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of the genitalia of women and girls. It is practiced in 28 countries in Africa and in some parts of Asia and the Middle East. Due to immigration, the practice is now prevalent in countries like Australia,  the US and the UK. It is believed that over 135 million women and girls have been affected and in the next decade, 30 million girls are at risk on the African continent alone. Seven years ago, no one in the United Kingdom was discussing the issue of FGM. This changed when in 2007,  Lisa Zimmerman, teacher and Project Manager of Integrate Bristol, took a class of 12 …

Efua Dorkenoo: The Woman Who Never Stopped

I remember the first time I heard about the legendary Efua Dorkenoo. It was 2007 and I was 9 years old, sitting in my back garden in Lagos, Nigeria, clutching my copy of her book “Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation, The Practice and its Prevention”. I was completely inspired by this brave woman who had chosen to write so poignantly about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). At 9, I ran into the house and went into my bedroom, scrambling around for my black notebook. In my rather poor handwriting, I wrote one word ‘Mama’ and added her to the list of women who inspired me. And for years to come, I would continue to admire and be inspired by this woman who was incredibly beautiful – inside and out. Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, known affectionately to many, as ‘Mama Efua’ was a shining light in the movement to end FGM, dedicating her life to the eradication of the practice. Often referred to as the mother of the end FGM campaign, she fought for …

Breaking the cycle to end gender-based violence

I am one of the lucky ones. Every morning, I wake up excited to attend another day of school. At school, I have an opportunity to learn new things, enjoy my lessons and participate in new activities. We have all heard the phrase, “If you educate a girl, you educate a nation.” Globally, it is estimated that 66 million girls will not have access to an education. Unlike many girls, I have the ability to access my right to education, choose who I marry and will have as many children as I desire. I am one of the lucky ones. Before I was born, my grandmother took a stand for me and future generations. She rejected the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and refused to let her daughter, my mother, go through the practice. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of the genitalia of women and girls for non-medical reasons. This practice has life-long physical, emotional and psychological effects on women and girls. FGM was practiced in my family for generations. When my grandmother was strong enough …

Can we really end FGM in a generation?

Can we really end FGM in a generation? On 22 July, the UK government held the first Girl Summit, a day that focused on how to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in a generation. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of women’s genitalia and has life-long mental and physical affects on their health. The Girl Summit was a fantastic day, full of commitments from leaders and ministers. Before we can achieve the goal of ending FGM in a generation in the UK, there are many issues we need to address: We need to understand why FGM happens Every girl around the world is born free and fearless. In countries where FGM is practiced, many young girls are left broken and fearful. FGM is a gross violation of women’s rights and is a reflection of deep rooted patriarchal structures. The practice of FGM oppresses women and girls. As a result, they are often afraid to assert their rights and thus are continually dominated by men. Men control the society we live in, and practices like …

Vagina is not a bad word

Yes, I said it. Vagina. People often think vagina is a bad word. It is not. Half of the world have vaginas, and the other half have penises. I cannot understand why we avoid talking about vaginas. When I am spending time with friends and I mention the word vagina they say, “June, stop! People can hear us!” It puzzles me how people can not deal with saying ‘vagina’. Ok, maybe I’ve said the word vagina too many times, but you get the point. When I talk about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), I often begin by saying that we are going to have a conversation about vaginas, fannies and muffs. FGM is the partial or total removal of a woman’s genitals for non-medical reasons and has life-long consequences on women and girls. FGM breaches at least 5 human rights of women and girls, and takes away a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. In these cases, someone else has control over their vagina. On 22 July, the UK government hosted the Girl Summit, a …

End Female Genital Mutilation: #FGMrose

My mother grew up in Sierra Leone, a country where 88 percent of girls undergo the process of female genital mutilation (FGM). But my mother was not cut. Her mother refused to allow her daughters to undergo the process, and members of their community shunned them. My grandmother was cursed by everyone and anyone and she was told her daughters were unclean and they would never find husbands. FGM has stopped in my family, because of my grandmother’s bravery to stand up for what she knew was an act of violence. Unfortunately, not all girls and women are as lucky. Worldwide, it is estimated that 140 million women and girls bear the scars of FGM. FGM is defined as the partial or total removal of the genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons. It commonly leads to infection, infertility and even death and is mostly carried out between infancy and age 15. There are three types of FGM. FGM type 1 is when a girl’s clitoris is pricked or cut, damaging sexually sensitive …

Rape and Sexual Violence – It’s #TimeToAct

Rape is not something that people in my community talk about. If a woman is raped, she is expected to somehow deal with it on her own. People will always find a way to blame the victim, not the perpetrator. Rape is a violation of a person’s human rights, an act of violence and an act that can have serious ramifications on a person’s life. Rape is an act of sexual violence, an act that we have silenced for decades and neglected. Rape is not a woman’s issue or a humanitarian issue. It is a global issue. Right now, women are experiencing sexual violence in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Central African Republic. Right now, women are experiencing sexual violence every day in Nigeria. In a recent post, I highlighted how the 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped had been sold into sex slavery for as little as USD $15. The world sat and watched with their arms folded as 500,000 women were raped during 100 days of conflict in Rwanda. Globally, women’s …

Speaking to Nigeria’s Midwives

Globally 290,000 women and 3 million children die each year due to preventable causes relating to pregnancy and childbirth. In the recent State of the World’s Mothers Report, Nigeria was listed as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to have a baby. The solution to solving maternal and newborn deaths in Nigeria is investing in midwives! The midwives in Nigeria are working hard to save the lives of Nigerian mothers. I recently visited George’s Memorial Medical Centre in Lagos, a clinic that focuses primarily on maternal and newborn health. Ebunolu Olukemi Dele-Isawumi: RN, RM, PHN Ebunolu is a midwife at George’s Memorial Medical Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. She qualified in 1993 and has been a midwife for 22 years. Why do midwives matter? Midwives are important because like the name implies, they stand between the woman and the unborn child to ensure that the child is delivered safely and the woman does not get any injuries in the process. Midwives monitor the woman before conception, during pregnancy and postpartum. Midwives can also …