Features

24 hours with Alimatu Dimonekene

Alimatu is lead advocate for ProjectACEi – a community group who advocate, educate and engage communities to end FGM. Twitter: @ProjectACEi

My day begins…

around 6.30am with a five-minute meditation and stretching to gather my thoughts for the day ahead. Working on FGM is tough, and it’s important to look after myself. By 6.40am I’m checking emails for urgent messages. I also check WhatsApp messages from two community women’s group forums I manage. Usually I’ll have urgent messages or safeguarding concerns raised to respond to.  

 

I leave home at…

8am for a 45-minute walk to my local drop-in centre. A free space is offered to me by the council to see women affected by FGM. My first appointment at the centre is around 9.30am.  

 

I am responsible for…

supporting women who have been affected by FGM, as well as educating and engaging communities and health professionals in helping to end FGM. As an anti-FGM advocate I often get referrals from practitioners and professionals – mainly from local hospitals and agencies requesting support for women. But being a community group and not a statutory body, I can only see women over 18 who have undergone FGM.

 

Most of my appointments are…

a combination of an initial face-to-face appointment to identify potential risk, a welfare needs assessment and casework to help women in accessing further support services. This ranges from simply offering a support letter to making a call to arrange a GP appointment. Although I see women at the centre, I mostly see them in their homes. I refer women with severe needs on to empowerment sessions for further support.  

 

My work is embedded…

within the community. I spend most time with individual members. I also often have outreach community engagements such as hosting community workshops and training. Here I discuss the risks associated with FGM, and the importance of the communities in helping to prevent women and girls from being subjected to it.  

 

As a survivor of FGM…

I know how difficult it can be for women with no support in dealing with their trauma. But given the lack of funding, most of my work is done on a shoestring budget. I recently had a call from a young woman worried that if she returned to her home country she might be subjected to FGM. Given this risk, I made a referral to the local authority adult safeguarding team to assist her with obtaining an FGM order from the family courts. This was the most remedial action I could offer: with more resources, I could have done so much more.  

 

The best part of my job…

is seeing the smile on women’s faces when they realise that someone is listening to the and not judging them.  

 

Post-work…

I often attend meetings in central London which takes up most of my evenings. I am in bed by 11pm, often exhausted, knowing that with more funding, I could do so much more.

Picture credit | Ivan Gonzalez / iStock

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