Health experts, academics and justice specialists will gather in Nottingham next week for an international conference aimed at tackling a form of child abuse affecting millions of young girls worldwide.
The Ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Together conference, which is being held at Nottingham Trent University on Thursday (September 3), will bring together prominent local, national and international speakers to better coordinate efforts to safeguard vulnerable young women and children at risk of the violent practice.
Hosted by FGM campaign charity the Mojatu Foundation, in partnership with Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, the conference will address around 250 delegates, many of whom are leading the field in FGM research.
Key speakers include Dr Comfort Momoh, UK FGM national coordinator, Dr Phobe Abe, GP and FGM specialist, and Dr Tobe Levi, an associate of the Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
Presentations will be delivered to showcase the work taking place across the world to end FGM and delegates will also discuss initiatives underway locally to safeguard and support those at risk.
Commissioner Tipping, who has contributed funding towards the cost of the event, said: “FGM remains an underreported crime because survivors are too frightened to come forward to police. Without knowing the full scale of this abhorrent violence we must concentrate our attention on training education professionals and other people who work around children to recognise the signs and risk factors so they can intervene early.
“We all recognise that working together is vital to ending this child abuse and events like these are vital to sharing knowledge and best practice so that we can better engage with at risk communities. By increasing confidence, we will empower more vulnerable young girls to seek help from the police.”
The conference has been supported by local and international survivors, with assistance from the Nottingham Community FGM Steering Group.
Valentine Nkoyo, conference organiser and director of the Mojatu Foundation, said: “FGM is a dangerous practice that destroys lives. There is no reason for it on any grounds. As a survivor myself, I am so grateful to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for supporting our work in Nottinghamshire around raising awareness and engaging survivors and affected communities. Without this support, it would have been very difficult to continue doing the work we do and engage survivors and communities in Nottingham.
“We have seen more survivors coming forward and community members getting involved since we started our campaign in Nottingham. There is need for coordinated efforts in tackling FGM and I am so glad other organisations are involved and particularly Nottingham Trent university which agreed to support the conference by hosting it at the University premises.
“To end FGM can only be possible only if a multi-agency approach is used while engaging survivors and affected communities. I am keenly aware that there are cultures where this practice is the norm, but we are saying that it is unacceptable to do this to girls and women.”
Chris Cutland, anti-violence campaigner and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “We don’t really know how big a problem FGM is in the UK as historically very few people have come forward to report it. It is a crime and I hope that we can give vulnerable young girls the confidence to report it as such, secure that they will be treated with sensitivity and understanding.”
It is estimated that between 100 and 140million girls and women have experienced FGM while three million young girls are believed to suffer this kind of violence every year. The practice is particularly common in a number of African countries, South East Asia and the Middle East. It is also found in the UK among communities that originate from these parts of the world. However, the true reality of the problem is unknown because few cases are ever reported to police. More education is needed to help protect vulnerable girls and empower professionals and community groups to recognise the risks and take action.
FGM can cause physical and psychological problems which can last a lifetime, and in some cases can even result in death. Since 1985, it has been unlawful to aid, abet, counsel, procure or carry out the act in the UK or abroad.
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Posted on Wednesday 26th August 2015