FGM /C (Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting)
WHFS (Women’s Health & Family Services) is a multi-cultural community health charity based in Tower Hamlets that focuses on health and empowerment issues for disadvantaged women and their families.
Female genital mutilation /cutting (FGM /C) is currently a global issue and WHFS works to support women who have been affected by FGM/ C, or who are at risk from the practice in the borough. WHFS has been working in Tower Hamlets since 1981, and FGM /C was highlighted as a growing concern in our outreach work (particularly in the Somali community) relatively recently. Whilst our support has been continuous, at present this has only been possible through funding from several sources for short-term projects, or from our own resources.
Please click on the links below for details on our current projects addressing FGM /C:
- Community Mediators & Advocates
- Partners for Health (launching in October 2016)
WHFS’s work always looks to engage the entire community, not just the women affected, and we also recruit and train male Peer Supporters to deliver structured awareness-raising sessions for men. This has proved highly effective, as the men respond more positively to their peers in open discussion, allowing entrenched views to be effectively challenged and the long-term impact of FGM /C on women’s health to be recognised as a major concern for the whole family.
All of our Peer Supporters are volunteers recruited from FGM /C affected communities who speak Somali and/or Arabic. We have a core group of local men and women (mainly women) who visit schools, community centres and mosques to raise awareness to stop FGM /C and to encourage women to access appropriate community and health services. Please see the Events page for details on current sessions, or contact us if you would like us to conduct a workshop for your group.
Addressing FGM /C from a health perspective
Our work concentrates on highlighting and addressing the serious, long-term health implications of this harmful practice; we support women to access the health services and support they need, for both prevention and "reversal" (defibrillation) procedures.
Our projects focus on:
- Recruiting and training male and female (mainly female) Peer Supporters from FGM /C practising communities to deliver awareness workshops for both men and women;
- Working in partnership with health services and relevant organisations to promote and improve the health of the affected women;
- Providing support to women who have undergone FGM /C;
- Providing one-to-one counselling;
- Referring women to appropriate health services and clinics.
"Hear Our Voices"
Our FGM /C work builds on our research and awareness-raising, detailed in the WHFS seminar at the House of Commons to launch our “Hear Our Voices” report in October 2014. This event brought together over 80 women from the Tower Hamlets Somali community, specialist health professionals, midwives and officials from the Department of Public Health. Please click here to read more about this event and download the report.
Initially, we were only able to give limited support to communities through our own resources, but since 2014 have received funding from both government and charitable trusts to develop and continue our FGM /C work. We would like to thank the following organisations for their support:
- ROSA & Comic Relief funded a 6-month project in 2014 to continue our outreach work, culminating in the launch of our "Hear Our Voices" report. Please click here for details.
- The Department of Communities and Local Government funded a 6-month project from January to June 2015, which enabled us to recruit and train volunteer Peer Supporters.
- ROSA also funded a five-month project, FGM/C Peer Support, which ran until the end of May 2016. This enabled us to continue our community engagement work, and to support women to access appropriate services to address their FGM /C-related health issues.
We are currently seeking funds to continue our FGM /C support services for women within our local community, and to continue our health and preventative awareness work. In addition to funding from statutory bodies and our own resources, in 2015 individual supporters and volunteers raised over £6,000 (from a £5,000 target) to mark International Women's Day to fund our FGM /C work.
If you can help or wish to find out more about our current work in this area, please contact:
Karen Wint - Joint Chair, Trustees
T: 020 7377 8725
Please click on the links below for further information:
- WHFS’s FGM /C project report ‘Hear our Voices’
- WHFS’s Short Briefing on FGM /C
- WHFS’s FGM /C Reference Library
- FGM /C resources and links (includes information on support services and helplines)
- Raising Awareness of FGM /C Amongst Housing Providers
- WHFS Lead FGM /C House of Commons Seminar
For more information on our FGM /C projects, please contact:
Halima Awad - FGM /C Project Co-ordinator
T: 020 7377 9643
M: 07496 764 876
Features WHFS Peer Supporters, the WHFS Hear Our Voices event at the House of Commons in October 2014 and The Somali Health Conference hosted by WHFS in April 2015 at the Brady Centre