Although banned in the UK, thousands of girls are subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) each year, with Greater Manchester identified as one of six “hotspots” in the UK, the police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd said.
Now, FGM victims in Manchester are getting real support in the form of an ‘Emotional Well-Being Officer’ (EWO) from AFRUCA – African children’s voice and prop in the UK. After receiving some funding from grant-making support group Tudor Trust, AFRUCA’s EWO will be working with young people up to the age of 21.
“Although the government has raised awareness of it [FGM], there has not really been much support for the victims”, Manchester-based AFRUCA Project Officer Rose Ssali told TNT.
Having been established over 14 years ago, AFRUCA – Africans Unite against Child Abuse – continues to promote the welfare of children in the UK. With 2 branches in the country (the headquarters in London), Manchester’s branch runs projects in the city to not only raise awareness, but to conduct recurring research within the communities its prevalent in.
To curb the surge of the FGM practice within Manchester, activists have to understand the mentality and history behind the cultures surrounding it.
“We provide training for the community, particularly African parents. We try to help them unlearn the practices and mentality that lead to FGM, whilst educating and training practitioners, teachers and local authorities about where the parents of the children affected are coming from”, Ssali explained.
AFRUCA’s new EWO role will be focusing on supporting young people affected by this practice – now banned in UK. With the help of the mandatory reports from hospital staff who may come across young female victims of FGM, AFRUCA gets referrals from local authorities and the community too.
The EWO is already working closely with the Sexual Assault Referral Clinic (SARC) in St Marys Hospital, before her one-to-one consultancy work commences at the end of February 2016.
“We are aiming to see about 40 people a year. We have already got enquiries from people affected by FGM, with about 6 people in 2 weeks having already come forward”, Ssali said.
On 22 July 2014, the UK hosted the first Girl Summit, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation. UNICEF co-hosted the event.
After working with 10 different African communities across Greater Manchester, AFRUCA published a report – ‘Voices of the Community’. What was discovered following research was that “many of the participants did not agree that FGM should be a criminal offence because it is part of their culture which had been done for generations”, AFRUCA’s report reads.
“It is clear that many did not consider this practice as constituting “mutilation” but a cultural practice – female circumcision – akin to male circumcision which is not illegal in the UK”.
TNT Health Yasin Chinembiri