Ending FGM in London
Entering the battle to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation
I began my campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation forty-five years ago. The impetus for my involvement was the shock of witnessing the result of the procedure, as a student nurse on an obstetric placement. I was preparing a woman for the delivery of her third child. But when I saw the mutilation she had experienced, I fainted. My reaction was in stark contrast to those of the senior staff around me; FGM was a cultural practice to which they had become resigned.
From then on, I became determined to play my part in eradicating FGM and in the intervening years, huge, but gradual, strides have been made. In 1985, the practice was made illegal and in 2015, it became a mandatory requirement for health, social care and teaching staff to report any cases of FGM they identify to the police.
Female Genital Mutilation in London
Despite the progress that has been made, this horrific practice still blights our capital. Approximately 170,000 women in the UK have experienced FGM and half of all of England’s recorded cases are in London. Although FGM has been illegal here for thirty-five years, it is estimated that 65,000 girls under the age of 13 are currently at risk of undergoing the procedure.
My campaign to make London a ‘zero-cutting’ city
I have been at the forefront of the London Assembly’s campaign to ensure that tackling FGM remains firmly on the Mayor’s agenda and that he lends his full support to the aim of London becoming a ‘zero cutting city’.
In January 2017, I hosted the London Assembly’s FGM Conference in City Hall with frontline practitioners from the public sector. I was delighted to have, as chair of the conference, the inspiring Hibo Wardere, a Somali-born anti-FGM campaigner, community educator and author.
During the conference, key professionals from the health, social care, education and policing sectors discussed ways of improving the way they work together to eradicate the practice. This was followed by an excellent keynote address by Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.
The ideas that emerged from the conference largely informed the London Assembly report that I wrote in April 2017, 'Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in London'. The recommendations from this report included the following proposals:
- The Mayor must take a visible lead and speak out against FGM, advocating a multi-agency response in his Police and Crime plan.
- The Mayor to champion a pan-London campaign to raise awareness of the real risks and dangers of FGM, signposting women and girls to the support they require.
- The Mayor must make clear the support he will give to the police, health, social care and education services, voluntary organisations and communities to help London towards becoming a ‘zero cutting city’.
- Long-term sustainable investment in preventing and tackling FGM should be a funding priority for the Mayor.
My mission is to create a strategy that more effectively mobilises communities to come forward with information, without fear of reprisal.
Accordingly, I have advocated the launch of a campaign, in conjunction with Crimestoppers, that provides a financial incentive to members of the public who supply information about known practitioners of FGM, which later leads to a conviction.
In March, in his Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, the Mayor undertook a number of the recommendations made in my London Assembly Report, including pledging £200k from MOPAC’s Victims Fund to bolster a regional London Councils Harmful Practices programme to increase the training available to those on the frontline who may come into contact with potential victims of Harmful Practices such as FGM, namely: midwives, nurses and social workers.
The strategy also reaffirmed the Mayor’s support for the work I am doing to achieve the vision of London being a ‘zero cutting city’.
Going forward, over the coming months, I will also be holding a series of events across a number of London boroughs, under the banner ‘Aspirations for our Daughters’.
At these events, I will be joined by other London Assembly members and local councils to engage with at-risk communities about their concerns towards FGM and other health issues.
My campaign to eradicate the practice of FGM in the capital is making significant strides, but to reach the ultimate goal of making London a zero cutting city, I need the continued support of local politicians and community leaders.
Islington Council launches FGM risk assessment tool
Jennette Arnold OBE AM met with Islington Council’s safeguarding team to discuss the borough’s Female Genital Mutilation Risk Assessment tool.
Launched in October 2018, the tool helps frontline professionals working in the health sector, schools, police and children’s services identify the risks of FGM.
During the meeting, Ms Arnold was provided with an insight into the work of the Council’s safeguarding team and how the borough has prioritised efforts to prevent FGM and improve support services to victims, despite significant Government cuts to its budget.
Reflecting on the meeting, she said:
“I am really pleased to see Islington heading up this essential work, protecting young girls in our community from harm.
“It has to be acknowledged that frontline staff across the public sector are in the difficult situation of being expected to deliver increasingly specialist and targeted services despite ever-growing pressures brought on by stretched resources.
“It is positive that in the face of substantial budget cuts presided over by central government, the Council are prioritising efforts to eradicate FGM and safeguard the most vulnerable young Londoners.
“The launch of the risk assessment tool is a vital step forward in ensuring that FGM is stamped out in our community and only one of the facets of Islington’s pioneering approach to help London become a zero-cutting city.”