The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has joined forces with survivors, campaigners and experts to call for an end to the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the capital.
FGM is a life-threatening, painful, illegal practice that violates the rights of women and girls and that can have lasting consequences for their physical and mental health. In addition to funding vital support services and early intervention work, the Mayor is working with campaigners and survivors on a grassroots community-focused campaign which aims to create more awareness of FGM by telling the stories of women affected.
The Mayor announced an investment of £15m from business rates in February 2019, directing more than £1.3m of that to specifically to help end harmful practices such as FGM. In addition, he has invested £200,000 to support Councils to provide training for around 1,000 frontline professionals that encounter women and girls who have either experienced or are at risk of harmful practices, focusing on early identification and prevention, safeguarding and support, and community engagement.
As part of his investment, he has announced that local and grassroots organisations supporting women and girls who have been the victim of violence in London will be able to apply for £3.1m of City Hall funding from next week. These organisations are often the first and only support for many survivors, and are often best-placed to address the needs of women facing multiple disadvantage such as BAME women, those at risk of FGM, disabled women, LBTQ+ women, and women with no recourse to public funds.
The Mayor’s investment in services that support women and girls who have been the victim of violence in London has led to a reduction in waiting lists for support, enabled Rape Crisis Centres to keep their doors open, and increased the provision of ISVAs (independent sexual violence advisors) by 35 per cent.
City Hall has worked with campaigners and survivors to launch a grassroots community campaign calling for an end to FGM. The campaign, ‘FGM Stops Here’, was developed in close partnership with an expert advisory board of survivors, frontline professionals and activists. It highlights the stories of four London women with different experiences of FGM. By amplifying their voices, the campaign aims to challenge the attitudes around this harmful practice within affected communities in London.
Sarbjit Ganger, Director, Asian Women’s Resource Centre, said: “We welcome the Mayor of London’s campaign on FGM. This campaign will raise awareness on FGM and even if one woman sees the poster, leaflet or video and seeks support as a result, this would be a positive outcome. Safeguarding the rights of women and girls experiencing gender-based violence is everyone’s responsibility, we thank the mayor for prioritising this work.”
Muna Hassan, activist and nurse, Integrate, said: “It’s incredible to see an FGM campaign that speaks of the reality of such a extreme form of violence against women and girls while also being a story of empowerment. For this to be the first Mayor of London campaign on FGM shows the incredible hard work put in by activist and professionals, in raising the profile of the issue. In order to End FGM we must all work together as a London community to raise awareness and support survivors.”
Dr Reeba Oliver, Consultant Obstetrician and Uro-Gynaecologist at Barts Health NHS Trust said: “FGM has serious health consequences that go into adulthood; there are long-term emotional, psychological and physical effects from the damage caused. I strongly encourage women to use the service where they will be treated with support, dignity and understanding. We offer a specialist service for FGM survivors, particularly those who avoid having a cervical screening test because of the fear that a vaginal examination evokes due to the psychological trauma they have experienced.