Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Risk in Westminster - Wonder report
The Wonder Foundation has published our first report, ‘Estimating FGM Prevalence in Westminster’. The report reveals that an estimated 770 Westminster schoolgirls aged between 3-18 may be at risk of FGM. Furthermore, over 40% of the girls identified as being at risk are from countries where FGM is practised as a universal norm.
FGM is a human rights abuse that is best tackled from the grassroots up, though co-production of resources and projects with affected communities. We hope that this report will help frontline professionals in the City of Westminster better safeguard those at risk and encourage other local authorities to conduct similar FGM research in their local area.
Risk to school-aged girls
1. There are an estimated 770 girls at risk of FGM currently studying in Westminster schools. Some of these girls may have already undergone the procedure.
2. This number represents 7.03 % of the number of girls in Westminster state schools.
3. There are 326 girls in the highest risk category, the majority of whom are of Somali origin or come from countries where FGM has a prevalence rate of over 85%, including Eritrea and the Sudan (this data pre-dates Sudanese secession).
4. 301 girls are from low FGM risk countries or countries where the severity of this risk is unknown. This includes the second largest group of girls at risk of FGM in Westminster who are Arabic - speaking girls of Iraqi origin.
It should be noted that the data presented in this report is based on self-reporting of language and ethnicity and therefore likely to be an underestimate. Not included in this estimate are:
- Girls who have chosen not to report the language that they speak at home.
- Girls who are privately educated.
N.B. Risk describes the chance of FGM rather than determining that it will happen. So not all girls considered by this report to be ‘at risk’ necessarily have or will undergo FGM.
- Anyone seeking to develop initiatives to prevent FGM and support those living with its consequences in the City of Westminster needs to gain a clear understanding of FGM from affected communities. These groups need to be enabled to come up with solutions to FGM. This will be most effective when consultation engages broadly with affected people and not simply with the loudest voices. More work needs to be done to find ways where women and girls at risk of FGM or who have been cut, can be identified and offered support. However, we are very conscious that if this is done in insensitive way women with FGM may feel targeted and stigmatised, as could children in the classroom from affected communities. A balance needs to be struck between awareness of FGM that leads to the eradication of the practice and the type of awareness that can lead young people to feel stigmatised and could reinforce current prejudices against communities where FGM is practised.
- Efforts need to be made to better understand the levels of FGM practice in Middle-Eastern communities.
- More needs to be done to train frontline healthcare professionals and teachers who regularly come into contact with at-risk girls or affected women on how to support these women and girls in a sensitive way. Co-producing training and practice with affected communities, so that it is effective, is essential.
- Campaigns against FGM should be made in conjuction with local communities. This is both an effective use of funds, as it ensures that materials reach their desired audience but is also an effective exercise in community awareness in and of itself.
- Wonder recommends that the limited funds dedicated to FGM prevention and support would be better spent in working with communities to address FGM from within. Promoting prosecutions could push the practice of FGM further underground in communities where people already feel marginalised by the establishment.