Annual Network Meeting on FGM/C in Amsterdam

October 13, 2019

The 11th of October 2019, I was invited for the Annual Network Meeting on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Amsterdam. The meeting was organized by Veilig Thuis Amsterdam-Amstelland and GGD Amsterdam in collaboration with FSAN (Federation of Somali Association of the Netherlands). The theme of this year’s meeting was: ‘Taking a look at FGM/C from a different perspective.’

Diner

The meeting was organized at Doc Du Nord in Amsterdam, where we started the meeting with a dinner. It was so nice to see all colleagues who work in the field of FGM/C in Amsterdam, including people who work at the GGD, Veilig Thuis, FSAN, the police, ‘key persons’ (sleutelpersonen) and health professionals (such as pelvic floor physiotherapists).

Welcome 

After the dinner, Ms. Enid van Ommeren, who is the department Manager FGMA at GGD Amsterdam introduced the theme of this years’ meeting and she shared a personal story about how she came to know about FGM/C. She also shared how her mother was always an example for her. And… she also showed the audience the article in Medisch Contact that I wrote and that just came out! I felt so honored that she noticed it and said that it was a well-written piece. And last but not least, she showed the movie of Istahil Abdulahi (that I made earlier this year together with Marijke Hoebee of Redhed Media) during her powerful speech. I noticed that the audience was moved by the short movie, and many women (and men!) had tears in their eyes. This promised to be a beautiful evening.

Sexual and psychological well-being after FGM/C 

Afterwards, Ms. Bianca van Moorst took the floor, who is a clinical psychologist-psychotherapist-sexologist at the department of Psychiatry & Medical Psychology at OLVG in Amsterdam. She gave a presentation about sexual and psychological well-being after FGM/C, following a systematic review that she conducted with colleagues. This research took place in 2016 and was published in 2018. In this systematic review, she analyzed with colleagues the literature on the consequences of FGM/C on sexual and psychological well-being. Ms. van Moorst explained that they found that women with FGM/C had more symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression and less self-confidence, lesser quality of life and less marital satisfaction than uncut women. In addition, women with FGM/C were less satisfied with their sex lives, had less sexual desire, less excitement, pain during intercourse and fewer orgasms. She therefore concluded that FGM/C leads to reduced psychological and sexual well-being. Ms. van Moorst emphasized, while explaining the anatomy and physical sexual response, that sexuality is a combination of biology, psychology and social relations.

After her presentation, a Q&A session followed, and the audience asked a lot of questions. It was interesting to note that also the ‘key figures’ said that they learned a lot, and it made me think that it might be a good idea to include this information in the training manual for ‘key persons’ as well.

 

Study of students to FGM/C in The Gambia

After a short break, three girls from Jac. P. Thijsse college in Castricum gave a presentation about their ‘profielwerkstuk’. They are 16 years old and traveled with a teacher to The Gambia to conduct a research on FGM/C over the past six months. They were excited to share with us their research results. In The Gambia, they interviewed girls, women, policy makers, doctors, a circumciser, parliamentarian and other experts. The three girls shared with us how they came to do this research, their research findings and also showed their self-made documentary, which is available here. It was really interesting and I was very impressed by the work they have done!

All in all, it was a very interesting night and I went home truly inspired. I would like to thank the GGD Amsterdam and Veilig Thuis for their kind invitation for this meeting. See you all probably very soon again!