A woman is urging others to seek help as she bravely speaks out to raise awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Salimata Badji Knight, who lives in Dorset, was forced to undergo genital cutting at the age of five during a family visit to see her grandmother in Senegal.

FGM describe procedures that involve the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia. It’s usually performed by someone with no medical training and girls are given no anaesthetic.

Salimata was told she was going on a picnic with other women and girls in the community.

She endured hearing the screams of other girls who went before her – one of them died – but was too young to understand what was happening. She was the last one to be led away and held down by three women.

She recalls: “I didn’t know what was happening but I was so hurt. I bled and passed out. It was the old women that performed this ritual, with their old-fashioned views of continuing these ancient practices and to preserve tradition.

“Records of this ‘tradition’ go back as Ancient Egypt, when Pharaohs and the aristocracy are believed to have cut bits of skin as a sign of distinction – as a sign of identity. Some African nations still practice some body and facial marks, to distinguish themselves from other people from surrounding areas."

Salimata only realised she was a FGM survivor in her late teens and became very angry.

She sought advice before confronting her parents.

Now a campaigner, Salimata speaks out about the harmful effects of cutting, some of which have left her unable to have children.

She said: “I wanted to make people realise that they don’t need to do that.

“They can still do the rituals, with a ceremony, dances and symbolically walk through a curtain. When the girls come out of the other side they have been through their rite of passage.”

Salimata is encouraging others to seek help by ringing the NSPCC’s FGM helpline.

There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales.

John Cameron, NSPCC Head of Helplines, said: “We hope this campaign will help to end the silence that surrounds FGM by encouraging young people and any adults worried about them to speak out and get help."

Speak to an NSPCC FGM helpline advisor on 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk so that appropriate action can be taken. More information can be found at nspcc.org.uk/fgm