1319. Sylla Mama Barry
Sylla Mama Barry, also known as Mama Sylla, from London, campaigns to raise awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) amongst the Guinean community in the UK, running workshops with other survivors to educate and combat misinformation.
Mama Sylla grew up in Guinea, where the prevalence of FGM in women aged 15-49 in Guinea is 96.9%, with 70% of those women having been cut between the ages of 5 and 14. Until moving to the UK and meeting with a specialist FGM team whilst pregnant, Mama Sylla had not realised the extent of the issue and was inspired to raise awareness amongst the Guinean and West African communities, founding her charity La Fraternité Guinéenne in 2016. She has helped to host a series of educational workshops across the country, inviting survivors, local authorities and other professionals to speak about the implications of FGM, and collaborated with the Home Office to support their ‘Let’s Protect Our Girls’ communications campaign to highlight the long-term health consequences of FGM.
Mama Sylla received her award from Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford (pictured below, with her husband) to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
In a personal letter to Mama Sylla, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“I know you do this with no thought of praise or reward, but allow me to offer my own recognition of how you are bravely sharing your own experiences and working with members of the Guinean community to campaign and raise awareness against FGM.”
Baroness Williams said:
“I was delighted to meet and congratulate Mama Sylla on her award. Together with her charity, she is doing amazing work to speak out and challenge FGM.
“As a government we are committed to tackling FGM both and home and abroad, and have toughened our laws to ensure that vulnerable women and girls are protected.”
Mama Sylla said:
“I am absolutely honoured and delighted to receive this award today. Since 2016, my charity – La Fraternité Guinéenne – has been actively campaigning to contribute to the common fight to end FGM both in the UK and in the country where I came from: Guinea.
“I grew up in Guinea knowing that FGM is normal, and nine out of 10 girls are currently subjected to this ill-practice. I went through it myself. In general, issues affecting women and young girls, such as FGM, are a taboo. It is never talked about. Our campaign has broken this form of omerta, and I will carry on raising my voice and encourage others to be part of the change makers within our Guinean and West African communities. I will always stand to be the voice of the voiceless and carry on educating people both in the UK and back in Africa.
“I sincerely hope that this award will encourage my fellow sisters to speak out as the more we are taking action, the greater our chances to effect change quickly.
“This award is also a recognition of my team’s efforts to raise awareness, educate and work with the Guinean community around the UK. I am proud of the team at La Fraternité Guinéenne and I thank them for their continued voluntary hard work.
“Finally, this award is for all my fellow FGM survivors from Guinea and elsewhere around the world. On behalf of the Guinean Community in the UK and around the world we say thank you to the Prime Minister. FGM is a cruel and an illegal practice and it must be ended.”
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