There is a lot of assumption by professionals involved in dealing with female genital mutilation. In my view, the difficult goal of raising awareness and changing mind sets, should begin by working from bottom to top not vice versa. With FGM, people need to get involved with communities and gain trust before anything else. This then will enable people to feel comfortable to walk in or contact the NHS / CPS, the police or any other source of help that they might need.
Furthermore professionals can sometimes forget that FGM is a broad subject and an understanding of one aspect of it does not solve the problem. In-depth understanding of people and their beliefs is crucial and working to this fit in with our campaign is what will bring about real change.
Working with the community
Community leaders, religious leaders, church elders from FGM practising communities will play a key role in changing mindsets. People do not want to feel as if they are being attacked and are likely to”stone wall” apparent interference. Few victims, I think, would have the confidence or even the desire to walk into their local NHS centre and say they were mutilated , particularly given they will have been misled into believing that the practise is a necessary part of their culture, rather than plain abuse.
Educating the victims and making them aware of what it is we are trying to stop( Schools and Teacher training for example. There are still some teachers who are unclear about FGM, and would presumably find it difficult to identify a child that might be at risk, or has been taken for cutting/mutilation)
Raising awareness is the starting point. More grass root work needs to be done with communities.
This could be done by:
- Using the local radio stations
- Different womens discussion groups and talks
- Sharing information with different members of the communities
- Visiting schools (sex education and talk about FGM)
- Plays, dramatising(visual is better than reading)
- Local news and television
- Teachers, the police and other frontline staff
The ending female genital mutilation war has to be fought on all fronts.