Sarian Karim endured FGM when she was 11 years old in her home of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Describing her experience to highlight the dangers of the practice, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985, she said:
"It was secretive and I knew children and women had been through the practice but no one spoke about it. There was an excitement about it, as it was regarded as a 'coming of age' ceremony.
"I was happy to be initiated but I did not know what it would involve and the impact that it would have on me as an adult."
"FGM is a normal thing for us. We don't know it is against the law, but I know that it damages girls and leaves them scarred for life - mentally and physically.
"It is very important that everyone knows that FGM is illegal. We suffer from a lot of complications (because of the procedure). We want those people who work in schools to have guidelines and be able to inform, prepare and protect children."
More needs to be done by schools, hospitals, healthcare professionals and the justice system to eradicate female genital mutilation, a joint authored report into the practice across England and Wales said today.
Chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Cathy Warwick said more work was needed to raise awareness of the harm that FGM, classed as torture by the UN, does to the health of girls and women. She said:
"We cannot expect communities or girls and young women to tackle this issue by themselves. FGM robs girls of their childhood and it is an abuse of their human rights.
"This is why we must work collaboratively to ensure that these recommendations, aligned to current policy frameworks, are implemented and monitored.
"FGM is a violation of children and women's human rights, and there is a real need to raise awareness about the damage that FGM can do to young girls and women within the communities that practise it."
A report, written by experts from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, human rights organisation Equality Now and union Unite, said the UK's response to the problem was inadequate.
There is a growing consensus that the system is failing to protect girls from FGM and more needs to be done in the UK to intervene early in a child's life, and to safeguard those girls at risk. Girls at risk of FGM are not receiving adequate protection from harm.
The British health and social care system is "failing" young girls and babies who are at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), experts have warned.
The report says "at risk" girls are not receiving "adequate protection" against the barbaric procedure - classed as torture by the United Nations - with some care workers feeling that FGM does not lie within their remit.
There is no accountability in performance of health and social care workers and a lack of consistent data, according to the report by experts from the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Equality Now and union Unite.
Young victims of mutilation can be left in agony and with physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood, a charity has said, as it launches a new helpline to support girls at risk.
Lisa Harker, the NSPCC's head of strategy, said: "The UK's child victims of female genital mutilation are hidden behind a wall of silence.
"Children who are at risk or victims of female genital mutilation often don't even know it is abusive and harmful because it is done at the request of their family.
"There is also a huge pressure within these communities to keep quiet about female genital mutilation, with some people even being threatened with violence if they speak out".
A new helpline is being launched to help girls at risk of suffering female genital mutilation in the UK.
The NSPCC with the support of the Metropolitan Police and the Royal College of Midwives have said they will tackle what they call an abusive practice carried out on young girls and even babies.
More than 70 women and girls in the UK are seeking treatment every month for problems linked to FGM, the charity warned, saying the 1,700 victims referred to specialist clinics in the last two years were likely to be a fraction of the total affected by the practice.