Bristol steps up effort to end Female Genital Mutilation

Stephen Williams hears testimony from project workers about vital work in Bristol to end the practice of female genital mutilation.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams on Friday 19 December 2014 heard testimony from project workers about the vital work that a government funded organisation in Bristol is doing to end the practice of female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

It occurs in 29 countries in Africa and in parts of the Middle East and Asia. Amongst members of migrant communities in the UK it is estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of FGM each year.

To help end the practice of FGM and so called ‘honour’ based violence in the UK, earlier this month the minister announced £270,000 in funding to 17 frontline community projects.

One such project is Integrate Bristol, who were awarded £19,807 to take their work forward.

The funding will enable Integrate Bristol projects to train 10 young people from FGM affected communities who will travel to schools and colleges across the country delivering quality education about the practice. The project aims to deliver 60 sessions and reach more than 1,200 students across Britain.

Integrate Bristol will also use the award to put on a national conference about FGM and violence against women and girls which will train 250 to 300 students and teachers on how to protect girls at risk and to consider how they can play a part in ending FGM as well as other forms of gender based violence.

Following his meeting with Integrate Bristol’s frontline staff and some of the over 100 young people who are campaigning to end the practice, Minister for Communities Stephen Williams said:

Female genital mutilation has no place in British life. We will not tolerate a practice that can lead to extreme and lifelong physical and emotional suffering to women and girls.

Earlier this year this government promised it would do its best to end this horrific practice and I’m pleased to say we’ve acted.

Sadly the practice is deeply embedded in some cultures but we need to challenge and change those behaviours and protect all British women and girls, - which is why we’re investing in innovative projects like those run by Integrate Bristol to specifically target those communities most at risk.

Lisa Zimmermann, Project Manager at Integrate Bristol said:

We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this funding and also for the support we have been shown. The work our young people are doing to raise awareness around FGM and to empower teachers and others to play their part in ending the practice can now be disseminated to a much wider area of the country.

FGM is everybody’s business and each and every one of us should play our part.

This funding is the latest in a number of commitments the government has already made to help eradicate FGM.

These include increased education and support in schools, a clearer law on those who fail to prevent their child being subjected to female genital mutilation, the introduction of new civil orders designed to protect girls identified as being at risk of FGM, granting victims of female genital mutilation lifelong anonymity, and an improved police response to female genital mutilation.

Further information

Female genital mutilation is an extreme form of violence against women and girls. It is a human rights violation and can have a lifelong impact on survivors’ physical and psychological health. In the UK, it is unequivocally a criminal offence and child abuse and the government is clear that political or cultural sensitivities must not get in the way of uncovering and stopping female genital mutilation.

125 million women worldwide are estimated to be living with the consequences of female genital mutilation and 30 million girls are at risk in Africa alone over the next decade. The vast majority of practising communities are in 29 African countries, with 74% of women aged 15 to 49 in Ethiopia having been cut, 88% in Sierra Leone, and 98% in Somalia.

The UK is the biggest international donor to efforts to tackling female genital mutilation investing up to £35 million over 5 years.

On 22 July, the Prime Minister and UNICEF hosted the UK’s first Girl Summit to build on current efforts and rally a global movement to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage in a generation. The commitments made included promises to improve the police response, increase the support available to those affected by forced marriage and strengthen community-led prevention.

On 5 December the government announced £270,000 of funding to be shared by 17 projects across England – including 2 nationwide groups to create a network of community champions that will work to ‘change hearts and minds’ about female genital mutilation and ‘honour’ based violence.

Video messages from the 17 projects awarded funding can be viewed

Integrate Bristol is a Bristol-based charity that works towards equality and integration. It works with young people aged between 11 and 20 years-old from a variety of black minority ethnic and refugee backgrounds.

In the past 12 months, Integrate Bristol has provided awareness raising onFGM and violence against women and girls to 651 young people, 1,930 frontline professionals members of the community and produced music videos watched by 30,000 people worldwide.

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