International Women’s Day: Hammers stars join the campaign against FGM


Members of the West Ham United women’s team have joined the campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) after receiving a hard-hitting workshop on the subject.
Women’s players Claire Rafferty, Julia Simic, Tessel Middag, Vyan Sampson, Becky Spencer, Esmee de Graaf, and Lucienne Reichardt were welcomed to an awareness course by Creative Sport and Leisure on the realities and dangers of FGM.
Friday 8 March marks International Women’s Day 2019, of which this year’s campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter; seeking to raise awareness against bias, take action for equality, and forge a gender-balanced world.
In some cultures across the globe, young women and girls are still forced to undergo this unnecessary yet extremely painful procedure. The World Health Organisation estimate that over 200 million females alive today are living with the effects of FGM, and midfielder Middag believes the reason comes back to inequality.
“Girls and women around the world are affected by FGM, and it comes back to the fact that women are not regarded as equal to men in those cases,” Middag said. “It has been really shocking to hear about. It’s quite a barbaric act.
“I’m actually really glad to have had this workshop, because now I know more about it and am aware of it.”

I’m actually really glad to have had this workshop, because now I know more about it and am aware of it.

Tessel Middag

Defender Sampson could not hide her disbelief that the deliberate act of cutting a female’s genitals was still occurring, but felt that the workshop provided her with the tools to help recognise any signs of young women who may be at risk.
She said: “I’m shocked that it’s happening in this day and age.  This is happening to girls that have absolutely no say in the matter. In terms of any subject, that is not okay.
“It strikes quite hard and quite close to home, being a female. I couldn’t imagine me, my siblings, or my nieces, having something like that done to them.
“I feel like I’m now able to talk about it comfortably; educate people comfortably, and be aware of the signs if I ever came across a girl in this situation.”



German international Simic feels that eradicating FGM from the world comes down to education and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the procedure.
It is estimated, according to the NSPCC, that 137,000 women and girls have been affected by FGM in England and Wales alone, and Simic reckons more needs to be done to battle for the rights of those receiving the procedure.
“I really appreciate having this workshop and being more aware of FGM,” Simic said. “Now we have a responsibility to pass this on to other people, so awareness of this gets bigger.
“I honestly think that the people doing this are convinced that they are doing something good, and we need to help put it in their heads that it’s a procedure that is not needed, and that they are not helping the girls by doing it.”

West Ham United are proud to support International Women’s Day 2019 and get behind the #BalanceforBetter campaign. For more information, visit