‘We Are Dealing With A Preventable Evil. FGM Does Not Have To Happen’ Was The Message From The Girl’s Summit 2014

#GirlSummit has been trending all day on Twitter, here's why...


by Sophie Cullinane |
Published on

‘Traditions are not sent from heaven or from God. It is humans who make cultures and we should stop all cultures and norms that go against the rights of girls,' were the wise words from17-year-old Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai at the UK’s Girl’s Summit 2014, held today in London.

Basically (or not that basically at all), the summit aims to eradicate child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation both here and abroad within a generation. It was hosted by UNICEF, in conjunction with the Department For International Development. Speakers included David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Theresa May - so that's a lot of politican support. But why are we looking at this issue now? And #girlsummit might have been trending all day, but will it achieve anything other than a Twitter hash tag?

Here’s your need to know…

‘Over 100,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences and 60,000 are at the risk of FGM. We must do more because one girl subjected to FGM, or forced to marry, is one too much.’

Home secretary Theresa May crunched the numbers at the Girls Summit in a brutal but stark way. She also revealed that the government pledged £1.4million towards ending FGM in this country.

** ‘It is now a mandatory duty for doctors for report FGM, and for the first time, we are going to legislate so parents are liable if they allow their parents to be cut’**

That was our very own PM David Cameron, announcing a change in the laws around FGM - and winning himself an impromptu round of applause in the process. He also pledged £25 million to help end childhood and forced marriage internationally, and £35 million to try and end FGM.

**21 countries have signed up to an international charter which pledges to end child marriages and FGM within a generation. **

‘What this has to be about is building a global movement that starts here and that we can follow up what the countries and organisations who signed this have done check that they’ve kept their promises,’ explained the PM.

‘The message of Islam is all about women’s rights and independence, but the Taliban and terrorists take the image of Islam to their own personal beliefs.’

In a summit packed with experienced speakers and politicians, the star of the show was 17-year-old Malala, who spoke eloquently about Islam and women’s rights, and explained why we need to be willing to separate cultural traditions from religion and faith.

‘We should define and revisit what the role of brother and father mean… I should be a different father to my son than I am to my daughters.’

Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai proves that good sound bites run in the family, with a moving speech explaining how important the role of fathers are in the empowerment of girls. (PS: if you haven't yet seen his Ted Talk about raising his daughter, it's here)

'I think about the fear of the girl who is taken in the forest and pinned down, the fear when a girl realises the man she is going to marry is older than her father and I think to myself - what if that is me? But I'm too scared to think about it. We need to talk about pleasure - she will never feel pleasure again. If married off early, she's at risk of rape and being taken early out of school.'

Actress Freida Pinto lent her voice to the harsh realities of FGM and forced child marriage.

'We're here because, everyday, millions of girls and women find their voices silenced, their lives at risk and their freedom denied simply because of their gender. FGM and enforced child marriage are the oldest and most extreme ways society have tried to control the bodies and lives of teenage girls, but that conspiracy of silence is finally broken.'

Nick Clegg's message on how we had to stand up on behalf of these silenced women was a sobering end to a sobering day.

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophcullinane

Picture: Getty

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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