A university student has taken a year out of her degree to successfully launch a charity in Leeds.
Bethel Tadesse is originally from Leeds but studies at Northampton University. While students often take time between their second and third years to study abroad or complete a year in industry, Bethel created Hidden Scars, a charity devoted to safeguarding against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Other organisations in Leeds contribute towards the prevention of FGM, but Hidden Scars is the first to be solely devoted to the cause. Bethel began the project at university but decided to launch it further in her hometown of Leeds.
Bethel says “I was inspired to do something after watching the Channel 4 Documentary ‘The Cruel Cut’. One of my mentors told me if you want something done, you’ve just got to get up and do it – so I did.”
Female Genital Mutilation refers to the partial or total removal of the female genitalia. There is no medical or religious backing of the procedure and it was made illegal in the UK in 1985.
Despite its criminal implications, a 2014 report by the Leeds City Region Conference revealed that almost 3,000 girls have undergone or are at risk of FGM in Leeds.
The procedure originates from and is still most widely carried out in Africa and Asia.
Bethel is of Ethiopian descent and has close family members who were subjected to FGM. She seeks to combat the risk to girls in Leeds with the help of local communities.
She has recently worked with the West Yorkshire Police and FGM medical specialists to spread her message. As well as this, she runs events in town which seek to explain FGM to the public.
Having won an O2 Think Big award and recently being featured on Humans of Leeds, Bethel hopes to continue her success after completing her degree.