Raising Awareness of FGM Amongst Housing Providers
"We're all here to end FGM wherever we go,
and that's where we can start from."
So opened the first ever roundtable discussion on tackling FGM (female genital mutilation) with housing providers. Chaired by FGM survivor and passionate campaigner, Alimatu Dimonekene, the meeting brought together leading activists in the field of ending FGM and ending violence against women.
This meeting began as a coming together of two organisations, Plan UK and the Peabody Housing Association. Plan UK are bringing their global campaign for girls' rights, Because I am a Girl (which includes ending FGM) to the UK and Peabody have become leaders in the field for identifying and addressing domestic abuse.
Dimonekene, who comes from a housing background and now runs a new anti-FGM organisation, ProjectACEi, facilitated conversations about how housing providers were, or were not, meeting the needs of women experiencing abuse and what needed to be done to broaden our understanding of violence against women.
Guddy Helevuo-Burnet, Senior Business Partner (Domestic Abuse) at Peabody explained how she had joined Peabody when there were only four cases of domestic abuse on their books. Through strategic delivery of training for all staff, from frontline housing professionals to plumbers and gas engineers, powerful awareness raising and policy development, she has increased their domestic abuse reporting by 1,425%. This has also led to the creation of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance.
However, Helevuo-Burnet explained how domestic abuse remained the focus subject across the housing sector and views of what constituted violence against women needed to expand to include trafficking, early child and forced marriage and FGM.
"The purpose of this meeting was to start the conversation," explained Helevuo-Burnet, "I hate the fact that I am advocating to end domestic abuse, because it means it is still happening, but now is the time to include other strands in our understanding of violence against women."
Sharon Hanooman of WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services) brought the results from their 'Hear our Voices' study, highlighting the needs of FGM survivors living and using services in Tower Hamlets. She highlighted how much work WHFS did with the health sector and yet how little housing was connected into that work. The report also highlights how the most marginalised women are still not being heard, but that there are opportunities to link services and meet their needs.
Attendees included Rosa, Viridian Housing, IKWRO and Barnardos National FGM Centre who all brought expert advice to the table. Discussions included ensuring FGM wasn't viewed as an 'African Community' issue and the need for enormous improvements in housing support for women leaving abusive relationships, but also how when housing providers get it right - it saves lives.
"It's essential that we see violence against women in its broadest sense," said Lucy Russell, UK Girls' Rights Campaign Manager at Plan UK, "and that understanding must look from the global picture to the local to tackle things like FGM and other harmful traditional practices that are, in the end, all about securing girls' rights."
Author: Lucy Russell
UK Girls' Rights Campaign Manager, Plan UK
For more information on WHFS's FGM /C work, please contact:
Halima Awad - FGM /C Project Co-ordinator
T: 020 7377 9643
M: 07496 764 876
For more information see:
- WHFS’s FGM /C project report ‘Hear our Voices’
- WHFS’s Short Briefing on FGM /C
- WHFS’s FGM /C Reference Library
- Useful FGM /C resources and links including information on where to get support
Features the WHFS Patron, Dr Geetha Subramanian MBE, addressing the Somali Women’s Network in January 2015 and the Somali Women's Conference in April 2015. Both events hosted by WHFS at The Brady Centre to raise awareness of the harmful health effects of FGM /C.