11 Sep 2017
A fantastic line-up of top comedy talent is taking a stand against FGM in Stand up to FGM, a Comedy Benefit Night at Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN on Monday 18th September at 7.30pm. Tickets are £25 available here.
Comedians Sue Perkins, Athena Kugblenu, Jo Brand, Shazia Mirza, Bridget Christie, Harry Hill, Mark Thomas, and Stewart Lee have come together to help raise funds to support The Dahlia Project which provides therapeutic support for women survivors of FGM (female genital mutilation). 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.
Psychotherapist and anti-FGM Campaigner Leyla Hussein, who founded The Dahlia Project, delivers the support through 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.
‘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.’
Manor Gardens has been funded by Comic Relief for the past three years to provide this support but is now seeking new funding to carry on this vital work. A public appeal has also been set up: https://localgiving.org/appeal/dahliasupportsfgmsurvivors/. The proceeds from the Comedy Benefit Night will give The Dahlia Project a lifeline whilst further long-term funding is sought.
The evening has been set up by comedian Bridget Christie, who has brought together such a fantastic line-up.
‘I would like to thank you for giving me the space and the chance to speak up and express myself without feeling judged or embarrassed,’ says one of the participants of the Dahlia Project. ‘I have tremendously benefited from our sessions and I genuinely believe that they have given me a new voice, a new chance to live without feeling ashamed or guilty. I honestly don’t think I can express my gratitude in words for the support and time you have given me.’
Another commented: ‘Thanks to this group I have been able to start conversations with my family members about FGM. As a result my brother has said he will never allow his daughters to undergo the practice. I would never have done this before speaking in the group.’