The 2nd of June 2020, Istahil Abdulahi and I gave an online guest lecture about Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) at Hanzehogeschool Groningen. Istahil is a survivor of FGM/C. At the age of 6, she underwent the practice in Somalia. She was 20 years old when she came to the Netherlands in the 1990s.
I met Istahil about 1.5 years ago through the organization FSAN (Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands), a Dutch NGO that is very active in the fight against FGM/C in the Netherlands. We became friends and as we share the same mission and vision to end FGM/C, we often work together (for example by giving lectures and workshops together).
Invitation for the guest lecture
We were contacted by Petra Tokaya, a lecturer of the Hanzehogeschool, after she had read an article in a national newspaper where the story of Istahil was featured. The article was published the 6th of February 2020, which is Zero Tolerance Day against FGM/C. You can access the article (in Dutch) here. In the newspaper article, Istahil shares her personal story and explains how FGM/C impacted her life.
The lecturer wrote us that she was impressed by the story of Istahil and she invited both of us to give a guest lecture about FGM/C for students who follow the module 'child abuse and domestic violence' at Hanzehogeschool in Groningen, the Netherlands.
Homework for the students
A few weeks before the lecture, we already shared with the students a YouTube video that we made about a year ago. In this video, Istahil shares her personal story, which has already more than 17.000 views! The video is in Dutch, but we also have a version with English subtitles, which is available here. We asked students to prepare questions about FGM/C.
The online guest lecture
Because of Covid-19, we didn't travel to Groningen, but instead we gave the guest lecture online via Blackboard Collaborate, which is a simple virtual classroom solution. We had in total 32 students participating, who came from different study directions (for example nursing, physiotherapy, social work, applied psychology) but who all took part in the module 'child abuse and domestic violence' which lasts 7 weeks. Students were in various years of their respective studies.
After Petra Tokaya introduced us to the students, Istahil shared her personal story with the students. Although the students had already seen the YouTube video, it was still a very gripping story and students were very much impressed by the courage of Istahil to share so many personal details. Afterwards, students asked her questions and I joined the discussion. We spoke for example about FGM/C statistics in the Netherlands (amount of women who live with the consequences of FGM/C as well as the girls at risk), the lack of enforcement of the law criminalizing FGM/C in the Netherlands and the role of the police and health professionals in terms of prosecution. We also discussed the importance of identification and prevention of FGM/C, especially in the period before (and after) holidays and students asked Istahil if she had tips on how to detect and prevent FGM/C, taking into account her experience. We also spoke about existing protocols in the Netherlands for professionals (and volunteers) who work with women and girls who have undergone FGM/C or are at risk of FGM/C. In the end, one student also asked a question about male circumcision, that we also addressed. All in all, it was a very interesting afternoon with a lot of interaction and sharing of knowledge and information.
We would like to thank Petra for her invitation, we both really enjoyed the lecture.
* In January 2020, Istahil and I also gave a guest lecture to students of the bachelor PPLE (Politics, Psychology, Law & Economics) at the University of Amsterdam. If you would like to invite Istahil and myself to speak about the practice FGM/C, both from an academic and survivor perspective, we would be more than happy to discuss the possibilities. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.