This case study demonstrates how effective leadership from politicians, senior council officers and other partners along with engagement from communities affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has resulted in significant progress being made in efforts to end FGM in Coventry.
Councillor Gingell, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, raised the issue of FGM at a full council meeting in December 2013. A Full Council Motion (Appendix A) was introduced to condemn the practice, which was unanimously supported. Council asked the Public Health team to establish a multi-agency Task & Finish group to gather knowledge and intelligence on the extent of the problem in Coventry, how it is being addressed by various partners and the barriers in dealing with FGM and to make recommendations on how to end FGM in Coventry.
Extent of FGM in Coventry
35 women affected by FGM accessed University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) midwifery services between April and September 2014, from a total number of 3,181. This was 1.1% of all deliveries. Presentation to UHCW midwifery services by women who have been affected by FGM varies on a month by month basis but is approximately 1-2% of all deliveries; the National average is 1.5%.
During 2014 West Midlands Police received 135 FGM referrals, 80 were from Coventry, this is 59% of all FGM referrals across the west midlands. (These figures are due to the well-established referral processes and reporting procedures between UHCW and West Midlands Police.)
Work already underway
The Local Safeguarding Children's Board (LSCB) has been working in partnership to address FGM locally since 2009 and offers training, has developed a safeguarding procedure and a website: http://www.coventrylscb.org.uk/prof_fgm.html
West Midlands Police have launched Sentinel. It is a force wide initiative aimed at protecting the most vulnerable members of society in the West Midlands particularly those who are victims or are at risk of child sexual exploitation, honour-based violence, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse. There have also been a number of joint visits carried out with the Police and Social Care in regards to FGM.
Coventry University are currently a partner in the REPLACE 2 project. REPLACE 2 aims to implement and evaluate community-based behaviour change intervention frameworks to tackle female genital mutilation in the EU. This project marks a significant shift in the ‘approach' to ending FGM. REPLACE 2 represents a radical change to the way FGM is tackled in the EU, by developing a new approach that integrates individual behaviour change within a community-based approach.
Meridian General Practice (a Coventry practice primarily servicing asylum seekers and refugees) routinely asks new registrations about FGM. If they see female clients who have undergone FGM who have female children they will inform them of the legal aspect of FGM and if they have concerns they will refer them to Safeguarding.
Recommendations for future work
The FGM Task & Finish Group has made recommendations on multi-agency working on FGM across Coventry. These recommendations have been endorsed by the Councils Scrutiny Co-ordination Committee and Coventry's Health & Wellbeing Board. All relevant agencies should work in partnership to implement the following actions:
1) The instigation of a targeted campaign to prevent FGM through awareness raising, education, training & empowerment
2) Continued support to West Midlands Police to enforce the law on FGM
3) That all suspected FGM cases continue to be referred as part of existing child safeguarding obligations in line with Coventry Safeguarding Board procedures
4) Support from the FGM Task & Finish Group to health colleagues at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) to offer continued support to women and girls affected by FGM
5) The continued focus by Public Health on improving data gathering, recording and sharing to ensure effective monitoring of prevalence and trends
6) The implementation of alternative educational approaches for dealing with the issue of Female Genital Mutilation to encourage local schools to engage in raising pupils' awareness of FGM
7) The implementation of an Ending FGM project (this is a 2 year project led by a voluntary sector organisation)
Coventry City Council and its partners are now working together to ensure that these actions are implemented through the Ending FGM in Coventry Steering Group.
Ending FGM in Coventry Conference
Coventry City Council and key stakeholders, led by the Public Health Department, have already implemented a number of campaigns and initiatives on FGM. A conference was recently organised that was attended by over 300 professionals and community members that proved very successful in raising awareness of FGM and educating delegates on FGM and the problem in Coventry, legal aspects relating to the practice and its harmful consequences. The conference included key note speeches from Seema Malhotra MP, the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, the Leader of the Council, local charities working to combat FGM and a FGM survivor. As a result of this engagement a ‘pledge' to end FGM is currently being drawn up that will enable all agencies across Coventry to commit to working towards ending FGM.
Coventry City Council has also produced two films on its work to tackle FGM:
Coventry City Council – Full Council Motion on Female Genital Mutilation – December 2013 This Council condemns the hideous practise of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and supports the national campaigns including that of the British Arab Federation (BAF) in its campaign to ensure its eradication.
1. Enforcement of the law so that British girls and girls resident in Britain are protected from being taken to different legal jurisdictions with the intention of carrying out FGM
2. Better enforcement of the law including against parents and guardians who organise FGM and Practitioners who conduct FGM procedures
3. Better education to support young girls in resisting FGM, to educate boys to oppose it and to empower communities to confront it We call upon all relevant authorities, including those involved in law enforcement, the justice system and public health, to do everything in their power to protect young girls from this life endangering, health threatening crime.