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Women of Grace: Takeley activist Valerie Lolomari takes her anti-FGM campaign to Westminster and to Sweden’s parliament

Women’s rights activist Valerie Lolomari has taken her anti-FGM campaign to Westminster and Sweden’s parliament.

The founder of Women of Grace, a charity which advocates against female genital mutilation and all forms of sex-based violence, participated in a Black Maternal Health All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting at Portcullis House.

The forum was hosted by Five X More, a grassroots organisation committed to changing Black women’s maternal health outcomes in the UK, and chaired by Labour MP for Streatham in South London, Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

Valerie Lolomari and MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy
Valerie Lolomari and MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy

Black women in the UK are four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth.

Valerie, who lives in Takeley with her family, said: “At the heart of the all-party parliamentary group’s mission is the urgent need to illuminate and address the pervasive issue of racial disparities within maternal healthcare, offering tangible solutions for resolution.”

Valerie, now a married mother of three, is a survivor of FGM carried out in Lagos, Nigeria, where she was raised by her maternal grandmother.

Victim posed by model. Photo NSPCC
Victim posed by model. Photo NSPCC

The practice - which has no health benefits for girls and women - can cause many health problems including complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

Valerie said after the meeting: “This cause resonates deeply with me, drawing from a blend of personal encounters and professional insights garnered from my extensive involvement in maternity healthcare.

“As always, my notebook brimmed with a wealth of invaluable insights, reflections, and a comprehensive list of available services tailored specifically for black pregnant women and birthing individuals.

“It is my fervent hope that through collective action and advocacy, we can pave the way for a future where equitable access to maternal healthcare is the norm, not the exception.”

Valerie Lolomari in Sweden
Valerie Lolomari in Sweden

Fellow attendee Dr Julie Hammond said: “A pivotal moment that profoundly impacted me was hearing from the representatives from The Vavengers [another FGM survivor-led organisation] and Women of Grace UK.

“Their accounts shed light on the harrowing experiences of survivors of FGM, who frequently struggle with the daunting prospect of disclosing their trauma for fear of legal repercussions and criminalisation despite being victims themselves.”

Valerie, who works to support refugees and migrants across Hertfordshire and Essex, took her powerful message against FGM to an event at the Riksdag in Stockholm.

Valerie Lolomari in Sweden
Valerie Lolomari in Sweden

She said: “Our time in Sweden wasn’t just amazing; it was a powerful rallying point for action. The gala radiated with the energy of unity, celebrating the strength that comes when passionate individuals unite for a cause.”

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is observed annually on February 6.

Valerie said: “Networking wasn’t merely exchanging pleasantries; it was forging connections with extraordinary women committed to making a real impact.

“We had also the opportunity to share what we do in the UK and community in working towards ending the harmful practice. Every interaction was a piece in the mosaic of a supportive community fighting against FGM.”

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