Tag Archives: drama

Rites – A Co Production between National Theatre of Scotland and Contact, supported by Scottish Refugee Council and Dignity Alert Research Forum, created by Cora Bissett and Yusra Warsama

Rites is a fantastic play based on interviews conducted with people with diverse experiences of Female Genital Mutilation throughout the UK. A deeply complex issue, the play provokes thoughts and debates by putting a taboo subject out into the public domain. Co created by a beautiful friend of mine, Yusra Warsama, it was harrowing but deeply enriching to watch, providing a platform for voices not often heard.

‘Do u think its wrong? Its just what we do. An ugly opening or a dignified closure.’

‘We were waiting to see the pieces of flesh, cuttings of our flesh…’

‘Why didn’t you come to help me, mother?’ Girl, aged 5

‘Every survivor remembers the dress.. The day I got the polka dress was the day I became silent.’

Nurse to pregnant woman, ‘Are you sure you have not been stitched?’ ‘I don’t know how the lady should feel sexually. I can’t see what was taken from me.’

Lawyer- ‘We need education. Girls are sent back. They are the sufferers and come back depressed refusing to do P.E. Some dont come back. FGM bill in Scotland added the extra territoriality clause. Crime doesn’t have to be done on UK soil thanks to Kathleen Marshall. You can be guilty if you were involved in the arrangement. Prosecutions don’t happen though and the legislation isn’t used! We must weigh up the body’s integrity to be alive with parental privacy. The problem is lack of referrals from health officials. Unfortunately the community are all for FGM.’

‘I want my parents educated – not prosecuted. It doesn’t effectively deter people.’

‘Overtly punitive law will lead to FGM practice going underground.’

Muslim chaplain, ‘There is nothing in the Quran to say FGM is lawful. It says don’t harm others and don’t harm yourself. The Prophet Muhammed was being kind to women much earlier than the West endorsed it.’

‘Economic condition of women are a contributory factor. I hear women say that I need to preserve my daughter’s livelihood and this means marriage. Proving their virginity by type 3 cutting is a good way forward, they believe. I heard one woman say that FGM was a good way to protect against rape. I had to hold my internal feminist back and ask for an explanation.’ Fatima- activist and campaigner.

‘There is a genuine fear of cultural dilution but there are tons of somalis not interested in FGM. They are interested in living. It has to be looked at in context, its bigger than rivers- like using water to tie a knot. You just can’t quantify it.’ Student.

‘Many are caught in the dilemma to mutilate or not mutilate. Real fear has consequences.Social pain and social rejection are powerful factors. Initiative to bring about change would be great but if people are circumcising girls you feel you have to too.’

‘I watched a film about designer vaginas. It was the first time I was seeing a normal vagina. My husband said I have the cutest vagina in the world and I replied that people are saying I’m not normal. He said I was fine yesterday- that was before I was tagged as a statistic, victim, mutilated.’ FGM survivor.

‘It’s a question of choice. Yes its an invasive procedure but I could process it as an adult. Pain was worth it and no it’s not about liking the status of having the procedure done. I understand women are not always given the choice but women of culture have a right to choose- I am pro choice! For adult women in Sierra Leone it is a form of power. The West have added the shock factor to FGM, just by labelling it as mutation, causing the patronisation of African women. When white women have plastic surgery to get a designer vagina, it’s vogue!’

‘There is an increase in teenage female genital surgeries which I think is still FGM cutting process 1 & 2 types. The campaign to stop FGM still doesn’t sit right with me. I see the double standards and wonder if I am being coopted into a white led anti- community, anti- culture cause.’

‘Examinations taking place that lead passengers from airports to clinics, stigmatise anyone travelling with daughters. We feel this is an infringement of basic civil liberties. Often the victims are portrayed as an African Islamic child. Plenty of changes have been made and there are fewer people doing it. It has declined. There were campaigners saying no to FGM worldwide and change has happened. Lots of people have been educated. The West is only catching up now which means our voices are not being heard.’

‘People forget that a form of FGM took place in the UK and USA for many years against lesbians to remove their clitorises as a cure. Eventually they shifted away from this concept. Why don’t we believe other cultures can? Cultures are not static. It’s worrying that FGM is being discussed around Ukip agendas and rhetoric about immigration and I don’t think this is accidental.’

It’s a deeply embedded tradition from long ago. We have left it now and people have re-entered religion. Now the concept is strange.’

‘Victims are not angry. People see us as mutilated but we dont see that. It’s not like it was systematic abuse- just one act of ignorance but we educated them. We have forgiven our mothers…’

“The way agencies pressurise families is so wrong. Social workers passing judgment- it’s invasive and humiliating. Child protection orders are issued and it’s hard for parents who didn’t hide the fact that their child had gone through FGM. It’s an embedded tradition and people don’t understand it. I saw that the agencies kept being rude and dismissive with the parents. They even suggested they couldn’t work out who the father was. One social worker said, ‘I have checked and they all have got beds'”

‘If you choose to be a cutter, you have basic training and sit, watching the cutter work. You watch the knife. Then you ask to be the one to start this on your sister or family. Action aid taught me it was wrong and I stopped.’ FGM Cutter.

Fara campainer- FGM activist, ‘Women know where to find us now. We are always sharing the information that men are happier in those communities where FGM isn’t practiced.’

‘People said to me, why are you working with the youth instead of mums, grandmas and religeous leaders? I wanted to work with young people as they are the ones creating change and setting standards for the future.’

‘Its our duty to protect. A part of me was taken but I don’t have hate. I’m here because I’m loved and I have a job to do. Mum won’t change her mind but I want to teach other women so they understand the damage, pain, infection and suffering. Our bodies are our own- perfect as they are. Change starts with good men and boys saying we don’t want our females in agony. Why should women’s bodies remain the property of everyone else? Women and girls are worth more to us. Progress has been made but we still have far to go. Let’s start by listening …… ‘



Nirbhaya – A play by Yael Farber as part of SICK Festival! 

Nirbhaya – Yael Farber ( India/Uk )

‘Her story cut my tongue and made me bleed words’ was the statement of one of the actresses on stage during last night’s performance of ‘Nirbhaya’ at Contact theatre – except these women were not actresses. Each female with raw emotion described and reenacted their real experience of sexual violence in a way that many will never forget. 
Prepare to be affected deeply as the women on stage explained that on the night of 16th December 2012, when a young woman described in the papers as ‘Nirbhaya’ ( fearless ) was brutally gang-raped by drunk men on a Delhi bus, it set a ripple of change in motion. 
Thirteen days later, Jyoti’s death helped countless women and men break  the silence that surrounds global gender-based violence. The searing testimonials tear away at shame, bringing these hard-hitting experiences to the forefront in one of the most powerful ways ever seen at theatre.
 If you haven’t been yet, you must see it. In a world where according to a 2013 global review of available data, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence, change must take place. National violence studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner. The most shocking statistic is that around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. 

What this play does is bring these statistics as close to the human experience as possible, makes you see what is taken away from individuals, both male and female, when sexual violation takes place and changes their lives forever. Incredibly powerful and necessary are not words that do this justice. 

 The cast members were the most humble and beautiful women I had ever met especially Sneha and Jagjit as we had the pleasure of a post show discussion with the cast and Dr Catherine White, clinical director of St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Manchester. The play will be touring across the country and then on to New York. Book your seats and prepare to be inspired. Tissues will be handy too. X

WAST ( Women Asylum Seekers Together ) and MISOL ( Manchester Migrant Solidarity ) supported by Safety4Sisters NW present ‘Still We Rise’

I had the pleasure of attending an evening of drama, song, spoken word and poetry that I helped form! The night was to raise awareness to the inhumane treatment these women suffer while trying to seek asylum. In a multitude of voices we learnt that Dallas Court is a ‘dungeon’ in Salford. Many of these women have to find their own way there, with no money or help. 85% of asylum seekers are on vouchers with no cash for other essentials. Since they must sign in, sometimes up to 2/3 times a week, these ladies are in a constant cycle of misery and panic. Unauthorised to work, signing in becomes a day of distress. If those with some sort of support go through this, imagine the dread for those on their own who don’t know the system at all. Many are destitute and these women are often housed in accommodation that is uninhabitable, waiting for considerable time before anyone helps with repairs.

Those asylum seekers who are refused stay are taken to court. The immigration system dictates that to appeal a decision – if you are granted that right, means you have to return to the country you fled from and wait for the decision to be made in the UK. Many asylum seekers do not have access to legal aid therefore struggle to find representation. Since they are prohibited from working, many cannot afford solicitor fees. As one woman said, everything is arranged so that they fail. Often a couple of days before the court hearing, solicitors will suddenly decide to not represent them which means they must find other means, Those that can’t read or write face a double jeopardy.

Describing Yarls Wood, ‘It’s not a detention centre – it’s a concentration camp,’ said one woman. Situated in Bedfordshire, it consists of mostly women. Anyone based in Manchester cannot expect visitors to make a trip that will take them hours. It’s in the middle of nowhere so no other people are visible apart from other detainees and the guards. So many are kept here indefinitely with no charge. Their only crime has been to seek sanctuary. WAST women who have been incarcerated for up to 2/3 years have been abused or witnessed sexual abuse.

A lot of women are detained despite sticking to rules and despite being sick. With no access to interpreters or doctors, Yarls Wood is said to be worse than prison. Women spoke of being sexually harassed, denied anti-natal care with no medical attention from staff oblivious to their needs.

WAST have staged demonstrations to shut down Yarls Wood since 2012. One woman likened it to the government’s way of establishing modern day slavery. Women are paid £1 an hour for the work they do inside.

One lady from Pakistan who has been seeking asylum for 14 years now was , sexually abused in Yarls Wood by a young man causing her much distress. Thanks to WAST and the solicitors involved, she was able to come back to Manchester. Another woman also incarcerated has been left with severe eye problems due to the neglect she suffered inside.

WAST relies on the letters of support that are written to MPs. As ongoing enquiries continue into Yarls Wood the Government have just extended an 8 year contract to keep it going. So many aspects need changing in the system and they need our support. They are contactable on Facebook and Twitter. Show you care xxx