The following article contains discussion of themes including abuse and FGM that some readers may find upsetting.
EastEnders' Mila Marwa is currently trying to protect her younger sister Kioni from undergoing FGM and actress RuhtxjiaÏh Bèllènéa has now opened up about these scenes.
Mila had been harbouring secret worries about her younger sister's safety for a while as Kioni started speaking about their family planning a special trip for her with her mum.
It was only in Tuesday's (May 25) episode that her desperation led her to open up to Kathy about the reason for her upset: "She's the age now to be cut. You'd call it FGM. She doesn't know anything about it."
Mila then went on to explain that she was certain that's what the trip is about since she underwent the same thing and this was exactly the same deceptive strategy her parents used with her too.
While RuhtxjiaÏh is still a new arrival on the soap, she is glad to be tackling such an important storyline, saying: "I immediately felt a weight of responsibility but in the best possible way.
"I was so glad that a current topic that most people wouldn't want to handle, because of its fragility and cultural identity, was being brought to the forefront on such a massive platform and I was honoured to know I would be able to give it the respect, care, and commitment to truth it deserved."
The actress went on to express the desire to tackle the matter of female genital mutilation through the eyes of the young women who are affected by it.
"This story and topic is so many people's reality, not distant strangers but people living and walking by us every day," she said. "And I hope EastEnders have made a brave and needed step in reflecting our society and hopefully it encourages people to look out for each other, learn about each other and ask questions to bring awareness."
Mila's biggest concern however is protecting her little sister and making sure Kioni does not have to go through anything that she's had to since experiencing FGM herself.
"Mila is someone who doesn't want to see people unhappy or not living their full life, especially because she knows what that feels like to be trapped by something that is out of your control," said RuhtxjiaÏh.
"She wants Kioni to have all the things she didn't and her innocence protected. And right now that's by making sure Kioni does not go through FGM."
While Kioni remains in danger, Mila has convinced Kathy to help her keep Kioni away from her family and she has also gained Iqra's support.
Earlier this year, Mila revealed how she is only recently reconnecting with her family after running away as they didn't accept her being attracted to women.
EastEnders continues on Monday (May 31) on BBC One.
If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD) has worked with EastEnders on this storyline. FORWARD is an African women-led women's rights organisation working to end violence against women and girls, and can provide support, advice and information for those affected by FGM. Visit forwarduk.org.uk or call 0208 960 4000 to find out more.
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