the true story

Judging without knowing


Judging Without Knowing is a remarkable and topical piece of theatre, created and performed by Somali women in Bristol. Whilst covering an important and distressing topic, the play celebrates Somali culture and the support and care the women show each other.

Since its first performance in July 2019, word has spread, and we have been invited to take the show to an event in London on 8 February: “Is Zero Tolerance the Best Approach to Ending FGM?” – details for which can be found here.

As described by event organisers, Hidden Voices UK: “The play depicts the impact that current FGM policies and guidelines have on families suspected of carrying out this harmful traditional practice, allowing the audience to imagine the trauma of being suspected of carrying out a brutal crime simply because of ethnic or cultural background.” Read more here.

When first performed, the acta theatre was sold out, attracting a diverse audience; the Somali community, health and educational professionals and other local community members. The audiences were moved by both the stories and by the women’s standard of performance, reinforcing just how relevant and important the show is.

Judging without Knowing highlighted a topic that needs to be talked about, by the people who it is directly affecting. On the day it performed at acta in July, local and national news channels reported girls being stopped at airports as they travelled to Somalia for their summer hols. See the recent BBC report on the topic here.

Judging without knowing

In 2020, the acta team, along with acta associate Mohammed Hassan, plan to tour the show to Cardiff and other cities in the UK. These issues are relevant now, as Somali women are continuing to be refused access to flying, as well as facing ongoing stigma and difficult attitudes. If you’re interested in partnering with us to come to your town or city, please get in touch with Ingrid Jones at: Ing[email protected].

One cast member had this to say:

Judging without Knowing is a show that turns the well argued FGM narrative on its head.

For too long the focus has been on how barbaric the procedure is and that the communities involved cannot help themselves unless there’s awareness and punitive consequences for those who practice it. For many in the community this “white saviour” approach endorsed by a handful of disconnected Somali women is patronising and poses more harm than good.

The show depicts how the current FGM procedures deeply affect the families they come in contact with. The women in the show offer a snippet of what life is like when you’re constantly suspected of a crime because of your cultural background. The women in the show are adamant that they will continue their fight against this stigma until the end of these discriminatory guidelines.

Find out more

Interested in learning more about the work we do within the community?

Email Ingrid at [email protected]

Listen to our “behind the scenes” interview with Radio 4