Search This Blog

Thursday, January 21, 2010

FORWARD Awarded £30,000 To Help Protect Bristol Girls From Genital Mutilation

January 20, 2010

By Bristol City Council

National campaign group, FORWARD have been awarded a £30,000 contract to work with Bristol communities to help support girls and women who may be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Illegal in the UK, FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia and is a cultural practice carried out in more than 28 African countries, plus some Asian and South American countries.

In Bristol, the Bristol Safeguarding Children's Board has been leading a multi-agency effort to raise awareness of the issue and train professionals in spotting signs that a girl may be vulnerable to FGM. Forward will be working with community groups, training local advocates, talking to young people, running a pilot drop-in advice centre and providing feedback and training to health workers to improve services.

Chair of the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board Dr Ray Jones said:

“Female genital mutilation has very serious health implications for girls in this country. Cutting is usually performed before puberty and we estimate that around 1500 girls in Bristol are at risk.

“There are many myths around the practice but there is no religious text that supports or promotes any form of FGM. By commissioning FORWARD to do this work we will help girls and women build confidence, awareness and self-determination to make informed choices and access the services they need.”

FGM carries the risk of death from bleeding or tetanus, and long-term problems including urinary incontinence, recurrent infections and chronic pain. Reversal procedures are necessary for childbirth.

FORWARD Executive Director Naana Otoo-Oyortey said:

“Community engagement forms a vital entry point in changing this old practice of female genital mutilation. Creating spaces and dialogue to discuss and build skills of key community stakeholders and players will help strengthen change and safeguard rights and wellbeing of affected communities.”

Avon and Somerset Constabulary Detective Chief Inspector with the Public Protection Unit Dave McCallum said:

"Female genital mutilation is a serious crime attracting a prison sentence of up to fourteen years. If underage children are involved it is also classed as child abuse. Because the consequences of female genital mutilation for girls and women are so harmful, our primary focus must be on preventing it from happening.

"Anyone considering instigating this procedure, carrying it out or arranging for it to be performed on their children or any other female should be in no doubt that Avon and Somerset Police will thoroughly investigate any suspicion or incident with a view to prosecution.

"We would strongly urge anyone with information about any woman or girl who might be at risk to report it without delay. We would also ask the public to tell us about anyone involved in carrying out or arranging this practice. It can be reported to the police directly or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 - they never ask your name and never trace your call.

"We are fully committed to working with our communities, partner agencies and organisations to stop this damaging practice and this new work will be invaluable in assisting us to achieve this objective."

NHS Bristol Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children Jackie Mathers said:

“One of the best ways that we can raise awareness and encourage reporting is by making sure that front-line health staff are trained to recognise the signs that girls might vulnerable to FGM. Six hundred professionals working in health, education, the police, social services and the voluntary sector have already been trained and we hope to reach more this year.”