Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
60 second overview
Female genital mutilation (FGM) covers all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is a severe form of violence against women and girls, and should be treated as child abuse. New updated prevalence data was published in July 2015 and estimated that 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM, born in countries where FGM is practised, were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011. The high numbers of women and girls affected by FGM underlies the urgent need for action to protect girls who are at risk, and to support women who have undergone FGM. The Tackling FGM Initiative, which has now come to an end, aimed to strengthen community-based prevention work within FGM affected communities in England and Wales. We did this jointly with three other funders – Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Rosa – the UK Women’s Fund and Comic Relief.
What’s the issue?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) covers all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM is a severe form of violence against women and girls, and should be treated as child abuse. New updated prevalence data was published in July 2015 and estimated that 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM, born in countries where FGM is practised, were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011. The data include a breakdown for each local authority area in England and Wales. The high numbers of women and girls affected by FGM underlies the urgent need for action to protect girls who are at risk, and to support women who have undergone FGM.
What are we doing?
The Tackling FGM Initiative, which has now come to an end, aimed to strengthen community-based prevention work within FGM affected communities in England and Wales. We did this jointly with three other funders – Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Rosa – the UK Women’s Fund and Comic Relief.
By supporting organisations based within affected communities, the Initiative aimed to strengthen the voice of women and children already affected by, or at risk of, genital mutilation in all its forms. The Initiative started in 2010 with an £1 million investment, funding 14 organisations – 7 of these working in London. The first phase of the work finished in Spring 2013. A second phase, with a further investment of £1.8 million, was completed in 2016.
The Initiative commissioned an independent evaluation of its work, has supported conferences, an Open Space event, communications work to highlight the issue and we regularly engaged in discussions with government, faith leaders, local statutory agencies and other interested bodies, so that we can promote and share the learning from the work.
We are continuing to support policy work to embed the learning from the Initiative. Saria Khalifa (0207 697 3466) is the policy lead and is based at Rosa – the UK Women’s fund.
What we’ve learnt
Rejection of FGM has increased where community-based prevention work is in place.
- Awareness of FGM has increased both locally and on a national level.
- Affected communities are supporting a stronger stance against FGM by UK authorities.
- Working with younger women to empower them to speak out and make decisions is very effective.
- Bringing together both male and female religious leaders helps dismiss the perceived religious basis for FGM.
- Community groups can help provide the right techniques for tackling FGM, including safe spaces to discuss the issue and better networks between communities and professionals.
- FGM prevention requires all parties to work together: communities, professionals, authorities and policy makers.
What’s the evidence?
A final evaluation of the Tackling FGM Initiative was published in July 2016. This highlights the key findings from the six-year long initiative and make a number of recommendations to government, statutory agencies and community organisations, about what needs to be done to tackle the issue and increase prevention in the UK. An interim evaluation was published in 2013.
The impact of the funded groups was evaluated using a Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation Research (PEER) approach, which provides insights into sensitive issues people are reluctant to discuss openly. PEER provides rich narrative data about the ways in which people conceptualise and talk about FGM in their daily lives. It does not provide prevalence (quantitative) data on how many cases of FGM there are, or how many women/girls are at risk. However, PEER does provide insights into what is affecting peoples’ decision making, and community-based views on interventions to address FGM.
What’s been achieved?
The arguments used by funded groups against FGM have become more sophisticated and have generated insights into what works in changing attitudes within affected communities in the UK. A stronger network of community-based organisations has also evolved, building the confidence of activists to speak out against the practice – contributing to increasing the profile of FGM, in affected communities and in public debate.
Evidence of good practice from the FGM Initiative has contributed significantly to the Home Office’s resource pack for Local Authorities.
What else is happening?
A report providing provisional estimates of the numbers of women with FGM living in England and Wales by local authority area was published in July 2015. Funded jointly by Trust for London and the Home Office, this was undertaken by Equality Now and City University. The report also included the estimated numbers of women with FGM giving birth and the numbers of girls born to women with FGM in the UK, both by local authority area.
A new mandatory reporting duty for FGM was introduced on 31 October 2015 as part of the Serious Crime Act 2015, following a public consultation. The duty will require regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18-year-olds to the police. Fact sheet on mandatory reporting of FGM
The Home Affairs Select Committee published its second report Female genital mutilation: the case for a national action plan in June 2014. The report draws on the work of the FGM initiative.
Imkaan has developed a quality standard for organisations providing support to victims of harmful practices, including FGM. Further Minimum Safety Standards are being developed by Imkaan, for small community groups working on FGM prevention. These will be available in March 2016.
Where can I find out more?
Updated in April 2016, the UK Government’s Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines for FGM provide advice and support to frontline professionals.
NSPCC FGM Helpline: A 24 hour helpline to provide support to women and girls affected by FGM, and to anyone concerned about a child at risk 0800 028 3550.
FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development): The lead UK charity working to end FGM. Help and information line (open weekdays 9.30 am – 6.30pm) 0208 960 4000.
The Dahlia Project: A new service to support women who have undergone FGM
The UK Government’s Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines for FGM provide advice and support to frontline professionals.
Metropolitan Police Service’s response to FGM, Project Azure: 0207 230 8324
For information about local groups working in your area, please contact Louise Cook, The FGM Special Initiative, ROSA, The UK Fund for Women and Girls on 0207 697 3464 www.rosauk.org
A list of NHS Specialist Services for Female Genital Mutilation
Recent health data on FGM can be found at the Health & Social Care Information Centre.
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