In the 1990s, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) became a concern in the Netherlands due to migration of women from countries where FGM/C is common. Recent estimates show that there are around 41.000 women living in country who have undergone FGM/C. Most women, aged between 20-49, originate from Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. It is predicted that, in the next 20 years, 4,200 girls will be at risk of undergoing FGM/C in The Netherlands.
The national policy is meant to prevent all forms of FGM/C among girls living in the Netherlands and provide good medical and psychosocial care to survivors. However, there is substantial lack of knowledge about the practice among healthcare professionals, teachers and the general public. As we work closely with survivors of this practice, we feel a responsibility to help increase awareness and inspire action.
We joined forces with De Wereldwijven, a platform and community where Dutch women share inspiring stories. With their support, we created an awareness-raising campaign titled #DeWereldWijvenUnCut. Its objective was to draw attention to the topic by educating and featuring testimonials and opinions about the practice from an array of perspectives. To do so, we would create an impacting series of images, educational articles, and interviews with victims, medical experts, and politicians.
The campaign’s graphic concept featured photos of women’s pelvic area with their hands over their vulva. This later turned into an organic viral action, where women would post pictures of themselves cupping their hands over their pelvic area in the shape of a heart. These images were widely shared via social media and inspired many women worldwide to join our cause by following our lead.
Along with videographer Marijke Hoebee, we made two videos of FGM/C survivors. The first one features Istahil Abdulahi’s giving a brave testimony and sharing her reflections on how the event impacted her life. The second video was with Aida Belay, who recounts her experience undergoing FGM/C in Ethiopia and shares her wishes to end the taboo around this practice.
Dr. Annemarie wrote a substantive article for Wereldwijven on the complexity of FGM/C, and interviewed Parliamentarian Lilianne Ploumen, who’s been committed to the rights of women and girls for years, and plastic surgeon Dr. Refaat Karim, one of the few surgeons in the Netherlands who performs clitoral reconstructive surgery.
On the 6th of February, the Zero Tolerance Day against FGM/C, we were invited to the national TV show Koffietijd, where Dr. Annemarie gave general information and stats about the practice and explained the progress being made towards its elimination.
#WereldwijvenUnCut was a success! We reached thousands of people via social media and TV, and managed to gain the attention of several women’s magazines, platforms, and websites. Combined, Istahil’s and Aida’s videos have over 29.000 views to date, and Istahil’s testimony has already been translated to English. Since then, her story has become part of education programmes for students and healthcare professionals. Also, a short clip of Dr. Middelburg’s Koffietijd interview has been viewed more than 15.000 times. This campaign brought hope and inspired others to join forces and help end FGM/C.