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At Hear Women (GarGar Foundation), we are committed to speaking out on behalf of women who have suffered from Gender Based Violence.
One of our primary campaigns has been against the inhumane practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – we advocate on behalf of young girls to ensure they are not forced to undergo this traumatic procedure. Defined as the partial removal of the external genitalia for non-medical reasons, FGM is a global problem that reaches to the UK and beyond. It is estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in this country are at risk of being subjected to FGM each year. Beyond UK borders, it is performed on girls and young women in 28 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The World Health Organisation estimates that 3 million girls are victims of FGM in Africa alone.
Hear Women have put together an FGM Training Program designed to educate local communities about the misconceptions and cruel practices of FGM. The program helps professionals and volunteers working in places such as children centres, schools, churches, health institutions, and the justice system, including the police. The aim of the Training Programme is to help these professionals and volunteers: (1) to assist girls whom they suspect might be in danger by providing in-depth knowledge about the behaviours and early signs to detect those at risk; (2) to show how they can provide physical and emotional support to the victims that have suffered from FGM practices, estimated to be 66,000 girls and women in the UK; and (3) to educate them about the laws that help to protect children and women against this practice, and to discuss the implications of the upcoming change in legislation when the UK government makes reporting mandatory. The Training Program is run by FGM specialist midwife Joy Clarke, a leading anti-FGM campaigner who set up the African Well Women Clinic at Whittington Health in 2000.
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Outreach workers, health visitors, midwives and creche workers were among those who attended FGM training in Islington, led by specialist midwife and FGM expert Joy Clarke based at the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust.
It is estimated that there are about 1,300 girls in Islington who come from communities that practise FGM.
The session covered the types of FGM, where in the world it is carried out, the physical, psychological and emotional impacts on girls and women, how to ask parents about FGM and explain the legal, health and emotional consequences for parents and families, and the pressures on families from practising communities.
Jennifer Savage, family support and outreach manager for the London Borough of Islington, said the training equipped staff with measures to prevent FGM from happening.
‘We work with many mothers who have undergone FGM themselves and we provide them with support to deal with the consequences.
‘The training gave me a stronger understanding of the pressures families face to practise FGM, and what I, as an individual, can do to help those families protect their daughters.
‘There were some ideas that we were able to put in to practice right away, such as ordering posters and leaflets, and distributing them to parents.
‘Some of the ideas, like bringing FGM training to our fathers’ group, will take a little longer. We will be reviewing our progress as a team and thinking about what more we can do in November.
‘The last half of the training was devoted to developing a local children’s centre action plan to raise awareness of FGM and help parents resist community and family pressures to have the procedures done to their daughters.’
In the training session, Ms. Clarke made clear that children’s centres should give women whose children may be at risk of FGM the Government’s health passport (statement on FGM).
She pointed out the value of the passport for those at risk, and their families:
‘This outlines what FGM is, the legislation and penalties in the UK if found guilty of the practice, and the help and support and available to them. They can also show the health passport, which is available in 11 languages, to their families abroad.’
|Joy Clarke is an FGM Specialist Midwife with extensive experience of women centred care, all aspects of FGM, issues related and linked to the practice. She established and has run the African Well Women Clinic at Whittington Health since June 2000 dedicated to treating women coping with the effects of Female Genital Mutilation. The FGM service was recognised and praised as a model for the rest of the NHS by Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) in 2002.
Joy won the accolade of Highly commended in November 2009 at the Nursing Times Award for innovative practice, and the Community Partnerships Award in March 2014 for helping to address FGM in Islington. This was in recognition for a range of services developed from the FGM clinic including outreach work to local communities. She has lectured at National and International conferences and forums, and acts as advisor on FGM related topics to: the Department of Health (home Office FGM Unit), NHS London FGM steering `group, various NGOs and the media. She is dedicated to ongoing education in raising awareness of FGM and other harmful practices to community members, and frontline professionals from different disciplines including the Safeguarding Board and the Police.