Ethnic Council of Shepparton community development officer Thon Thon and project worker Betul Tuna want to end female genital mutilation. The Ethnic Council of Shepparton is leading the way in protecting girls from genital mutilation.
The Ethnic Council project worker says female genital mutilation is prevalent in cultures across the world. In some places, girls as young as two years old are being cut. Ms Tuna says it is also happening in our own backyard.
“Female genital mutilation has managed to survive over 4000 years,” Ms Tuna said. “It’s global, it’s not a region or a culture or a country, it’s so widespread, from the Middle East, to Africa, to Asia and the reality is it’s even in Australia.
“This is a problem for Australia, but we’re not acknowledging it. This is in Shepparton, this is in Kyabram, Tatura, Melbourne, Sydney, this does not discriminate, so how do we stop it?”
In Australia it is estimated 80000 women and girls have been cut, and three girls are at risk each day.
Shepparton’s Ethnic Council is leading the way in protecting girls from female genital mutilation. In the past year Ms Tuna and Ethnic Council community development officer Thon Thon have worked to help the Shepparton community understand what female genital mutilation is and who is vulnerable.
They have created a resource, which will be distributed by Shepparton community services and Victoria Police. “The goal is to protect and prevent little girls from being mutilated and to support girls and women who have been affected by female genital mutilation,” Ms Tuna said.
“We’ve done community awareness, community development, professional development and training here in Shepparton.” “We just want to stop it, that is the main thing,” Mr Thon said.
There is no denying that female genital mutilation is child abuse. But unfortunately Ms Tuna said some families thought they were protecting their little girl by going through with the procedure. “We condemn the practice, not the culture, I think that’s really important to understand,” she said.
“These are families who sincerely believe they are protecting their child from harm, from a community that’s going to reject her if she doesn’t have female genital mutilation done.” “But we know now why we should not do it. We can trust our child to maintain her virginity, trust is what we need now.”
Sadly, female genital mutilation is gender-based abuse. “The reality is it’s an act committed because the child was born a girl,” Ms Tuna said. “As much as it is practised by women on girls, it is still driven by men.
“‘There should be no comparison to male circumcision, where there is no ongoing impact, there’s not the same implications, there’s no harm to the child. The reality is female genital mutilation is telling her this is your place in the world, know your place.”
The Ethnic Council created this flyer to hand out to the community, if you would like a copy, phone 5831 2395
The community-led initiative is supported by the Family and Reproductive Righters Education Program (FARREP), Goulburn Valley Health, Primary Care Connect, Victoria Police, Greater Shepparton City Council and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ms Tuna and Mr Thon were inspired to make a difference in Shepparton after attending a FARREP training session last year.
“We’re here to support women, we can help make referrals for whatever their needs are, from a Shepparton point of view,” she said.
For more information, or for support, phone the Female genital mutilation Hotline on 1800 522 707.
Article and image courtesy Shepparton News