“I felt compelled to write about it”, awarded playwright on female genital mutilation

Brummie playwright Charlene Jones won the prestigious Alfred Fagon Award in 2014

Brummie playwright Charlene Jones won the prestigious Alfred Fagon Award in 2014

According to the latest figures about female genital mutilation (FGM), with 349 cases in a local hospital only, Brummie playwright Charlene James said:

tweetthis“People are afraid to talk out in fear of being called offensive or ignorant.”

[tweet this]

She added that “People do not understand other cultures practices, so they don’t want to question them.”

“But if a British mother was mutilating her British daughter, here in Britain, we wouldn’t stand by and let that happen. The mother would be jailed.

tweetthis“The fact that these girls are from different cultures or backgrounds should be irrelevant.” [tweet this]

James won the Alfred Fagon Award writing a play about FGM

The former Birmingham City University student won the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year in 2014 writing a play about Somalian girls who suffered from mutilation in the UK. She said:

“I watched a lot of documentaries, some of which showed the actual procedures on girls as young as 7.

These were the most harrowing and devastating images I have ever seen. And for what?

There’s no medical or even religious reason behind these beliefs that FGM has to be carried out. I felt compelled to write about it.”

“It is about education”

The Home Affairs Committee published a report which showed that it is estimated that 65,000 girls aged 13 and under are “at risk of FGM in the UK.”

James is demanding “Much more needs to be done by the Government. Prosecutions need to happen for perpetrators.”

Looking for solutions, she believes that “The best way to help girls at risk is to educate their families.”

She also said:

“Go into the communities where FGM is prevalent and work alongside them, support them.

“It’s hard to break tradition of something that has happened for generations. It happened to you, your mother, her mother and so on, so it must happen to your daughter.

“We need to provide a different way of thinking. We need to change the mentality of those carrying out these acts.”

Seeking a home for ‘Cuttin it’

Her awarded play, ‘Cuttin it’, was read in the National Theatre, an experience defined as “a dream come true” by the young playwright. James, who is 30 years old, is now “trying to find the right theatre to give it a home and spread the word on FGM.”

At this time, she is now involved in few projects, not only for theatre, but also for radio and television. Some of James’ current idols are writers and actors like Tracy Letts and Chiwetel Ejiofor or Lena Dunham, writer of HBO series ‘Girls’.

Shakespeare is also important for her:

tweetthis“I couldn’t come from the Midlands and not be inspired by Shakespeare.” [tweet this]

As a former acting student, James says to those who want to write, that “There’s no better place to experiment than at drama school because you are surrounded by actors desperate to act, so write as much as you can and get them to try it out.”

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