Greater Manchester’s faith and community leaders have come together to declare zero tolerance of female genital mutilation (FGM).
At an event to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM (Tuesday 6 February), faith and community representatives signed a pledge cementing their commitment to help end the illegal practice by raising awareness within their organisations and places of worship, and protecting and empowering girls and young women to seek support and speak out.
Although illegal in the UK, more than 2,000 girls living in Greater Manchester are estimated to be at risk. Between April 2016 and March 2017, 765 cases of FGM were identified by local health professionals*. Many women are forced to live with the long term impacts of the procedure, including gynaecological problems and mental health issues.
Unfortunately, due to the ‘hidden’ nature of the crime, the true number of victims is unknown.
Greater Manchester has made great strides in tackling this issue including: training more than 1,000 frontline staff across health, education and community and voluntary sectors; commissioning a specialist medical screening service for women and children; and the launch of the Guardian Project, which coordinates care and support for young girls affected by or at risk of female genital mutilation. This service has supported more than 80 people in its first year.
A year to this day, Greater Manchester also became the first UK city-region to declare zero tolerance of FGM.
Opening the event today, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester Bev Hughes said: “Today, we share Greater Manchester’s journey to tackle FGM and cement our commitment to continuing our work to protect and empower women and young girls affected by this abhorrent crime. Our faith, community and voluntary partners have been instrumental in this work so far and I look forward to strengthening our relationship as we continue on our path to eradicating FGM. Together we send a clear, united message that FGM has no place in our communities.”
The Greater Manchester FGM Forum leads regional efforts to combat FGM, and is supported and governed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It brings together multiple public agencies and voluntary organisations to combat the practice, support victims and provide a robust and consistent response for victims across the region’s public services.
Jaria Hussain-lala, Chair of the Greater Manchester FGM Forum, said: “The Greater Manchester FGM Forum has been at the forefront on this issue and over the last six years we have made great progress, and become a national model of good practice in addressing FGM. A firm commitment by all our partner agencies together with the political support has enabled this agenda to be given a priority within many work areas.
“However we do still have challenges. One of which is raising awareness within all communities of the support available to victims within the region, as the number coming forward to access support does not reflect the number of victims affected. I am hoping today’s event will address some of this gap as faith and community leaders pledge to raise awareness of FGM and support services.”
Attendees at the event heard about the work of the Guardian Project including the experiences of a peer mentor who works within communities to raise awareness of the issue and supports women and young girls who have been affected by FGM.
Peggy Mulongo, Project Manager at the Guardian Project added: “Working towards zero tolerance, Greater Manchester has been successful in piloting a new initiative that meets the recommendations of the current multi-agency statutory guidance on FGM, standardising FGM response and addressing the gap in support and service provision that is culturally competent.
“Working hand in hand with local authorities, health, education and third sector agencies, we are proud to ensure a clear and effective coordination of care and support for girls and young women affected by FGM through the Guardian Project, aiming to effectively and permanently prevent FGM in Greater Manchester.”
For more information and advice on FGM please visit www.gmvictims.org.uk/fgm or contact the Guardian Project on 07449651677 / firstname.lastname@example.org