On International Women’s Day we must continue to #pressforprogress against FGM, forced marriage and sexual harassment

It has been an amazing journey for female empowerment, many obstacles have been tackled we are here to continue fighting!

The 8th of March has become a significant date for many women. During the Russian Revolution 1922, protests broke out against the deteriorating living conditions, lack of food supplies and the shortage of food. Since then it has been a day of celebration and unity.

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Women’s voices are being heard, and each day is a small step to equality on all platforms; however women are still facing discrimination as  a result of  their gender, whether it be socially or in their professional life. The most prominent form of discrimination for women today is sexual harassment, an epidemic that came to light in later part of 2017. Other issues include female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages, which are still not talked about as much.

FGM has been around for thousands of years in many different cultures, the most popular age for girls to have the procedure is between infancy and 15 years old. There are many different degrees of FGM, from excision of clitoris to complete removal of the clitoris to completely narrowing the vaginal opening as Figure 1 shows.

FGM was outlawed in the UK in 1985 and later in 2003; it was made illegal to arrange FGM for a British citizen or a permanent resident. Regardless of this, many women and young girls are still at dire risk.

The procedure has no known health benefits for girls or women. However, the FGM can host many complications for the survivors, these can include infection, long-term urinary problems, child birth problems, genital tissue swelling and in some cases death. Furthermore, the psychological strain can consist of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression amongst sufferers.

It is estimated that there are more than 200 million females that have  undergone this procedure to date. The practice is most prevalent in western, eastern and northern Africa. There are many sociocultural factors as to why it is practiced. FGM is seen as a necessity of a young girl preparing for marriage; it has become a social norm in some societies. The backlash, of not conforming to these traditions are becoming isolated and estranged from the community. It is believed FGM ensures chastity and fidelity in a marriage by reducing a woman’s libido, therefore reducing the risk of extramarital sex. To see the factors to look out for if you are worried about someone suffering FGM click here.

FGM

Figure1 http://nationalfgmcentre.org.uk/what-is-fgm/

Another pressing issue in today’s society and something women and men across the globe are fighting against is forced marriage, whereby one party, or both parties are being pressured into the marriage, usually by their families. There are many reasons why it takes place, and for the most part they are the same reasons why many do not come forward.

Victims are often emotionally bribed and possibly face estrangement if they do not enter into the marriage. For many victims, reporting the crime will put them in more danger, as a result they feel like they do not have anyone to seek help from.

The statistics by the Home Office shows an increase of almost 13% from 2014 to 2016. Recent figures, from 2016, show there was a staggering 1428 cases in the UK. Victims, aged 16 or younger, have increased from 11% to 26% (2014/2016 respectively). Victims aged 18-21 have increased from 17% to 34% (2014/2016 respectively). This is an ever growing problem, if you would like to know the signs click the link.

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Women have made wondrous achievements, however, in light of the recent news of sexual harassment in Hollywood and far closer to home in Westminster, it seems women across the globe are coming together to discuss how to fight against a workplace culture of harassment against women.

The Harvey Weinstein debacle started the conversation. Figures from the Trades Union Congress revealed that 52% of women have experienced unwanted behaviour in the workplace. Even more dishearteningly 4 in 5 women do not report the incident.  Alike, reports at Westminster found many MPs under the same scrutiny; accusations of gross misconduct began circulating at the end of 2017.  The string of MPs named from all parties saw many suspended, demoted and under investigation.

As a result, men and women took to social media to talk about their experiences.  #MeToo began trending; people across all industries could share their harrowing stories. In just 24 hours, 4.7 million people around the globe were engaging in the conversation, further highlighting the magnitude of the issue. Similarly, at this year’s Golden Globes, this topic of conversation had taken precedence. #TimesUp began trending whereby A-list celebrities made it their goal to shed more light on the initiative.

At JAN Trust we have aided thousands of women through our classes including English, IT and Fashion, improving their range of skills and employability chances. Through our Web Guardians™ programme, women are provided with invaluable knowledge on how to tackle extremism and online radicalisation. Through our Against FGM and Against Forced Marriages campaigns, we have raised awareness of the abuse women go through in today’s society. We hope to continue to #PressForProgress this International Women’s Day.

About JAN Trust

JAN Trust (www.jantrust.org) is a multi award winning not for profit organisation formed in the late 1980′s. We are based in London and cater for women and youth from disadvantaged and marginalised communities. Our work and services are delivered locally, nationally and internationally. Our aim is to create positive and active citizens of society by educating, empowering and encouraging women and youth. We are dedicated to the cause of combating poverty, discrimination, abuse and social exclusion among Black, Asian, minority ethnic, refugee and asylum seeking (BAMER) women. JAN Trust is making a real difference in improving the lives of communities; promoting human and women's rights as well as community cohesion. We provide a range of services and our work has been recognised by a variety of dignitaries. Check out our website for statements from some of our supporters: http://www.jantrust.org/what-people-say
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