Comfort Momoh: a carer and campaigner

Comfort Momoh

The campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has become mainstream news in recent years, a development clearly welcomed by Comfort Momoh (Women’s Healthcare BSc, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, 2002).

Now a midwife and public health specialist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and lecturer at King’s College London, Momoh established the African Well Women's Clinic at St Thomas' in 1997. ‘The media support has been good in raising awareness,’ she says. ‘The people calling me are young people wanting to find out if they’ve been through FGM or not. Demand is high.’

Momoh sees between 300-350 women a year, and is disappointed that even ‘so-called health professionals’ are still not reporting when they find affected women.

‘I know of women who have had children in the UK and no one here has picked up that they’ve gone through FGM. So that’s one of the challenges.’ 

The numbers of girls and women in the UK affected by FGM could be as many as 137,000, and 200,000 girls are at risk each year of being taken overseas by their family to have FGM.

In July, the Home Affairs Select Committee asked for the immediate implementation of a national action plan to respond to this ‘growing crisis’. Recommendations include better safeguarding of girls at risk and a need for more prosecutions to send out a stronger message.

For Momoh, while prosecutions have their place, ‘I want to put my energies and my focus into preventing [FGM].’

She spends half her time visiting schools to raise awareness among pupils and teachers, and works closely with GPs, mosques and churches. 

‘Some people still see FGM as a religious obligation, so we need imams and pastors taking a stand to support the campaign.’

She has helped set up 16 more clinics across the UK and her outreach work stretches beyond London, into Kent and Surrey - and even internationally on frequent trips to Africa. In 1999 she advised the World Health Organization on the issue of FGM, and in 2001 represented the UK at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

‘I’m part of a group that supports midwives and birth attendants in Chad and in Nigeria. I want to do more to support family planning and general wellbeing for women and girls, helping them to make the links between their human rights and these religious and cultural practices.’

Recipient of countless awards, including the MBE, Comfort Momoh was also recently recognised as one of the most influential Londoners. But, she says ‘all the recognition and awards I receive I dedicate to women and girls out there who have been through FGM. It bleeds my heart.’

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Article posted: December, 2014

 

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