13 Sudanese and 12 Somali women were recruited from FGM affected communities in London to share their experiences and learn from each other in London.
From email invitations, phone calls, coffee mornings and community outreach sessions - this number is the total of women who completed the training course.
Estimated girls & women affected
The 25 women who finished the course are talking about what they have learned within their communities in London and back home; via community engagement activities and workshops.
Estimated community members affected
In October 2013 we reported that we would train 15 women from affected communities to raise awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) in their communities and provide emotional support for women that are affected by it. We extended our numbers of participants to 25 due to the need; 13 Sudanese and 12 Somali women were recruited from FGM affected communities in London, through organised coffee mornings and our links in the community.
The training spanned over eight weeks. Facilitators used participatory approach methods providing ample opportunity for participants to share their experiences and learn from each other. For the DVD, we captured elements of the training and featured interviews of the trainees in orer document their healing process and how the training transformed their lives to empower and support other girls and women.
There was an introductory discussion about making the film, which was facilitated by the professional film crew. The training covered the hazards of female genital mutilation and the eventual and emotional distress caused by it. In the film we see women who are highly motivated, talking confidently about their experiences and the need to end this practice. FORWARD also hosted an awareness raising community event where the film was screened with a diverse audience ranging from professionals to community members that were brought together to discuss the issues surrounding female genital mutilation and ways to overcome the challenges - 60 women attended including many women from FGM affected communities.
”At the age of four my Mother took me to the village and performed type iii female genital mutilation on me. During labour of my first child, I experienced painful complications and had a forceps delivery to ease my labour; my baby died! I developed fistula and had many unsuccessful operations. After I moved to the UK I went through many more operations to remedy my fistula problems. I was fitted with a Colostomy bag, which affected me psychologically and I developed deep depression and went to the mental clinic.”
Risks and challenges
We had to amend our training sessions to eight weeks which helped to keep our training programme within term time and school hours, so that majority of the mothers could attend after dropping their children at school and leave adequate time to collect them. The provision of crèche facilities was particularly helpful for mothers with very young children; this ensured mothers/carers could participate fully without interruptions. Language was sometimes an issue; some of the ladies could not speak or write fluent English, so we had translators to explain the concept and content of the training and further express participant’s views in Arabic and Somali.
What we’ve learned
Three Somali male elders who are prominent leaders in their community came to support the efforts of our community outreach workers. One, who is a school governor, highlighted the importance of engaging men through trainings at schools, and parental education on female genital mutilation as an integral part in ensuring a stop to the practice. The involvement of men, though unplanned, was very exciting as the elders are very influential in their community where they can effectively engage with men to challenge their attitudes towards women and the practice of FGM.
We will continue to raise awareness and support ending of FGM through our programmes and support our volunteer community outreach workers to promote behaviour change in practicing communities.
Amount spent so far
Travel & lunch for training
Child care and indirect project costs
Counseling trainer (consultant)
Venue for training
Venues for community outreach
Course packs & materials
Community outreach workers
Staff x 2 co-ordination fees
Filming workshop& filming
Editing & production
Hearing and Healing Women affected by Female Genital Mutilation
The project will train 15 women from FGM affected communities to raise awareness of FGM in their communities and provide emotional support to women affected by FGM. An awareness raising DVD will also be developed to be used during community outreach sessions and events. 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, start the healing of the psychological wounds of FGM, and safeguard their daughters. Since the beginning of the project we have met with 15 women based in South-West London who are looking forward to starting the 12 weeks training course in January 2014.
We also started developing the educational film which will capture elements of the training and feature interviews of the trainees to document women's empowerment journey. Women have welcomed the film as an effective way to make information more accessible to non-native English speakers.
Risks and challenges
FGM is a sensitive topic in most affected-communities and one of the challenges that might have occurred was a reluctance of women from FGM-affected communities to engage with the project. However, during our initial meeting women have repeatedly mentioned the severe lack of safe spaces where they could go and share concerns and issues, and many of the women present that day had never discussed FGM before.
Before FORWARD came to talk to us, I had never shared my experience of FGM. I was so shocked to learn that FGM does not only happen in my country, but in 27 other African countries. Talking to the other women was very therapeutic and I was able to share my story for the first time without feeling judged or not normal. A lot of emotions came to me that day but I no longer feel ashamed as there are other women who have gone through similar experiences as mine.
The training and film shooting will start in January 2014 to April 2014. In addition to leadership and counseling skills, the training will include modules on gender and rights; FGM and well-being; how to respond to FGM and access support in the UK; safeguarding of children; advocacy skills.
Workshops on film-making have also been planned so that the final resource will represent the women at key moments of the training, snapshots of women's own videos and interviews.
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."