Support 200 women affected by FGM in London

Provide training for community outreach workers to support women in London who have experienced trauma due to female genital mutilation (FGM).

Why we care: In the UK, it is estimated that 66,000 women are affected by FGM.  FGM can severely impact women’s emotional as well as physical health.

How we’re solving this:  Offering 12 training sessions to 15 women from FGM affected communities to become volunteer community outreach workers to provide counseling to other women. 

The emotional effects that FGM has on women are severely overlooked in existing care services and many women and girls suffer in silence.  FORWARD has been working with women and girls affected by and at risk of FGM for 30 years.  In the UK it is estimated that 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at high risk of the most severe form of FGM. 

Some of the emotional effects that girls and women may experience as a result of FGM are emotional distress, fear and feelings of helplessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder including flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and depression for a long time after FGM.  Many women do not have the confidence to talk about their experience and feelings to professionals as FGM is a taboo subject for most communities and yet its impact on women’s lives can be life-long. 

We will train 15 women from FGM affected communities to become volunteer community outreach workers. The training will cover counseling skills, developing a deeper knowledge and understanding of FGM as well as other forms of violence against women and girls, listening and communication skills, advocacy skills and how to offer appropriate support for women. The community outreach workers, many of whom will be refugees or asylum seekers and affected by FGM themselves, will through this training deal with their own emotional needs and gain the skills to offer therapeutic support in their first language to women and girls in their own communities.  This team of trained community outreach workers will be supported by FORWARD to offer individual and small group counseling to women. This counseling will take place through workshops, events and community sessions where women will feel comfortable to discuss deeply personal feelings and issues in their own languages (or English) with other women who have had similar experiences. These outreach sessions will provide information on accessing appropriate health services and the other issues that FGM has on women. 

We will also create an educational, awareness raising DVD for the community outreach sessions developed by the women affected by FGM for women in the communities.  Workshops will be provided on filming skills for the community outreach workers by a professional filmmaker.  The women will develop and film this 10 minute educational film on the mental health effects of FGM for use in community outreach sessions. We aim to reach over 200 girls and women through the film screenings, community-based outreach and counseling sessions.  This project provides the opportunity for women to be heard and to start the healing of the psychological wounds FGM inflicted upon them as young girls, and to develop strategies to safeguard their daughters from FGM.   

* Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”