This week marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and women’s rights activist Emma Watson marked the day with a shoutout to the “tireless work” of a student-led anti-FGM charity in Bristol.
Watson shared a video created by the young activists of Integrate UK with her 29 million Twitter followers — saying it's one of her "favourite campaign videos ever.”
And if you haven’t seen it yet, honestly you should.
The playful, stylish, incredibly important #MyClitoris video and catchy-as-hell song that it accompanies are about how no form of FGM is acceptable — and also more widely about how women’s and girls’ bodies are theirs and theirs alone.
“Trying to change me, shame me, tame me, shape me, every day,” sing the activists who feature in the video. “You can’t touch my dignity in any way.”
🌸 On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, shout out to student-led charity @_IntegrateUK for their tireless work to #EndFGM— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) February 6, 2019
& for making one of my favourite campaign videos ever! 🎥🎀#ZeroTolerance4FGM
🌺 Full video: https://t.co/2kwIhjr2fKpic.twitter.com/YiOS8BxO9f
Watson sharing the video — which has also previously been shared by Caitlin Moran and Lily Allen — sparked considerable excitement at Integrate HQ.
“We are absolutely thrilled and proud and it’s a tribute to the young people that work so hard around the issue of FGM, and we’re so grateful for her support,” Lisa Zimmermann, director of Integrate UK, told Global Citizen, adding that the charity’s activists were “all massively excited.”
FGM is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured, or changed, but not for a medical reason, according to the NHS.
It’s usually carried out on young girls between infancy and 15 years old, generally before puberty starts. As well as being very painful, it can also cause serious and lasting harm for the health of women and girls — including long-term complications with sex, childbirth, and mental health.
An investigation this month by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show suggested that FGM is being carried out on increasingly younger girls — with a case in West Yorkshire reportedly involving a girl of just one month old.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 — carrying a maximum jail sentence of 14 years. But it wasn’t until this month that Britain saw its first successful conviction, when a mother in London was found guilty of subjecting her 3-year-old daughter to the practice.
Integrate UK — co-founded back in 2007 by Zimmermann and a former student of hers, Muna Hassan — is all about using creative arts to empower young people to “take an active and positive role in transforming the society they live in,” according to its website.
Its work is predominantly about supporting young people to find their own voices and own platform for expressing their views and ideas, to create a society founded on equality and integration. FGM is a significant campaign issue for the charity, which also hosts workshops to get young people educated about and talking about FGM.
Awareness around the issue of FGM is growing, thanks to the work of campaigners such as Integrate UK and many others. But this is a new phenomenon, with FGM having remained under the radar in Britain for years.
When the UK published its first annual statistical publication on FGM, it found that England had seen 5,700 newly recorded cases of the practice between 2015 and 2016. A further 9,886 new cases were recorded from 2016 to 2018.
Meanwhile, an estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM.
When Intregrate UK’s activists first created the #MyClitoris video, it was reportedly in reaction to an article in the Economist that argued a form of what’s known as “Type 4 FGM” should be performed in hospitals in Britain.
"However distasteful, it is better to have a symbolic nick from a trained health worker than to be butchered in a back room by a village elder," read the article.
The article inspired lyrics in the song such as: “No way I’m having a little nick,” and “My clitoris is staying where it is.”