by Natalia Chan
Maryam Mursal. The first woman to make a big name for herself singing Somali jazz, the first woman to drive a taxi in Mogadishu, the first woman to drive a lorry in Somalia.
And on Saturday her unique brand of music, with sounds taken from blues and soul, from Somali and Arabic influences, soared through the Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, joining other female African artists who brought vibrancy and warmth to that bitterly cold night. In true African style, the dancing started as soon as the first note rang round the hall, featuring Sudanese singer Amira Kheir and Sona Jobarteh, the first female kora player to come from the prestigious West African Jobarteh griot family.
The night was in aid of FORWARD – a charity that promotes health and human rights for African women and girls, including campaigning against Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage.
According to the WHO, between 100 – 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM, with estimates that 2 – 3 million women are at risk of undergoing FGM each year. This practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.
However, FGM also occurs in Europe, though there is little data available to show the scale of practice, particularly as girls are often taken back to their countries of origin to be mutilated. A recent study by FORWARD in the UK suggests that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are potentially at risk in England and Wales, and that nearly 66,000 women with FGM were living in England and Wales in 2001 – numbers are likely to have increased since then.
FORWARD celebrated its 25th anniversary on Saturday, an impressive team of strong and charismatic women.
If you’re interested in helping out, read on. FORWARD are seeking to recruit 16 – 24 year olds who are passionate about ending violence against women and girls. They’ll offer free peer education training to develop your leadership, communication and advocacy skills and provide an opportunity for you to challenge gender based violence and influence real change in your community.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 8960 4000
“We as artists are responsible if something wrong is taking place in our society. It’s very important for us to speak up, even though we may have to do it with a double tongue. We have to speak out for our people.” - Maryam Mursal