21 Sep 2017
Islington’s Union Chapel was full to bursting on Monday night in support of Stand up to FGM, a Comedy Benefit Night with comedians Sue Perkins, Athena Kugblenu, Jo Brand, Shazia Mirza, Bridget Christie, Harry Hill, Mark Thomas, and Stewart Lee. A grand total of £21,908 was raised through ticket sales and the raffle.
The event was organised by Bridget Christie who has been a long-standing supporter of The Dahlia Project, which provides therapeutic support for women survivors of FGM (female genital mutilation). Stella Creasey, MP for Walthamstow, co-ordinated the raffle and brought a team of volunteers to help run the event.
More than 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone female genital mutilation. It has devastating lifelong physical and psychological impacts and yet many vulnerable women have no access to support services.
The Dahlia Project is delivered by Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, a charity based in North Islington which has a long track record of enabling refugees and newly arrived communities to access healthcare and to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. Chief Executive Phillip Watson said: ‘The public support for this event is heart-warming and the comedians who have given their time have helped us reach a wide audience with this important message about FGM.’
Psychotherapist and anti-FGM Campaigner Leyla Hussein founded the project. ‘I was cut when I was seven years old’ says Leyla. ‘It was not until many years later that anyone talked to me about FGM and offered me help. FGM is shrouded in secrecy and too many women suffer in silence through many years of pain. At The Dahlia Project we break the silence and provide a safe space and therapeutic support. Working with these incredible women who have gone through so much, seeing them heal and support each other, is inspiring.’
The Dahlia Project is an innovative therapy service providing peer support groups and individual counselling for women who have undergone FGM. The support is tailored to the psychological needs of the women and the project provides a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space where participants can discuss their experiences, open up about the effects of FGM and rebuild their emotional wellbeing and resilience.
‘Our team reaches out to survivors to offer life changing support,’ says Leyla. ‘Our therapists are often the first person women are able to tell their stories to and openly discuss how FGM affects their lives. Since 2014 we have run therapeutic groups in different parts of London and directly helped more than 150 women. We also provide advice and training to health professionals from across the UK. We now need everyone’s help to continue and expand this important work. Our service is oversubscribed and we urgently need additional funding to run more support groups.’