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Minneapolis Organization Helps Girls, Women Deal With Consequences of Mutilation

April 13, 2017 07:01 PM

News Thursday that a Detroit-area doctor has been charged with performing genital mutilation on two young girls from Minnesota has brought the issue more closely into the public eye.

Female genital mutilation of minors is illegal in the U.S. unless there's a legitimate health reason. The World Health Organization says the procedure has no health benefit for girls and women.

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But Fartun Weli, a health educator and the Executive Director of Minneapolis-based Isuroon, said 99 percent of the women and children who come to the United States from Somalia and other West African countries have had female genital mutilation before the age of eight.

RELATED: Detroit-Area Doctor Charged with Genital Mutilation on 2 Minnesota Girls

"It's in our hearts and minds and constant in our lives, it's hard," said Weli, whose agency is the only one in the country dedicated to helping women and children deal with the consequences of FGM. 

She and her staff served 5,000 women and children last year. 

"The biggest topic is female genital cutting, it (is) wreaking havoc in our lives," she said. 

Weli and the women who work with her have not only heard every horror story.

They've lived it. 

Weli had FGM when she was seven-and-a-half.  Seven is the age children get FGM. 

While it is against the law in the U.S., it is common in the Middle East and in Jewish and Christian communities around the world. It's considered a right of passage and a ritual to make girls clean. 

Weli said girls and women who have had FGM pay a high price for a ritual. 

"Labor and delivery issues, sexual health issues, cervical cancer is very high with female genital cutting," she said.

Isuroon educates women about the effects of mutilation on their bodies. Nothing surprises them, but Weli said she was shocked to hear of the two mothers from Minnesota took their children to Michigan for FGM.

"That tells us Minnesota providers are not willing to do it," she said.

Weli said those mothers provide a lesson to others.

"They become educators of everyone else who thinks they can get away with it," she said. 

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Farrah Fazal

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