Introducing the work of Barnardo’s and the National FGM Centre

In 2018-19, there were 4,120 newly recorded cases of FGM in England and Wales alone.

Barnardo’s and the National FGM Centre are working to end all new cases of FGM in England by 2030, through the three-year FGM Appeal which began in 2018, with Anita leading as the Honorary Chair.

Barnardo’s are also working with the National FGM Centre to combat CALFB (Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief), which includes cases of witchcraft and spirit possession, and in 2019 affected at least 2,000 children in the UK alone.

Here is Lauren’s story, as an FGM Support Case Worker:

“Based in one of the outer London Local Authorities, every day I face new challenges as part of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding team. Our role is to raise awareness against harmful practices of FGM, breast flattening and child abuse linked to faith and belief, and we work in partnership with agencies, children, young people, parents, carers and the community to ensure this is achieved.

A large part of my role is to receive all referrals where there are concerns around any of the above practices. It is my job to assess each referral and make a decision on the outcome and how we will respond. In many cases, this requires attending team meetings, training and liaison sessions with other agencies – for example FGM clinics and specialist midwifery meetings.

One of the biggest challenges I face is the cultural significance that these practices are born from.

In one of my cases, I worked with a pregnant woman who has undergone FGM as a child in her country of origin.

She was referred to me after midwives became concerned about the way she spoke of FGM, and upon further conversation I understood that it was her intention to have her own daughter ‘cut’. On questioning her about this, it was clear her response was based on her culture and her own life experiences, as for her it is the norm for girls to be cut as babies.

I had to use an interpreter in our meetings as this woman had only been in the UK for one year and spoke no English. Though I didn’t immediately understand what she was saying, it became immediately clear that she had no idea FGM was illegal in this country. I went on to explain to her the health consequences of such an act, to make her aware of what she would be putting her daughter through. Through this conversation I acknowledged a change in the mother’s views of FGM, and was relieved that upon meeting her over the weeks after her daughter’s birth, the risk of FGM was determined to be low.

Not every case is this positive, and far too often we receive reports of children who have been taken out of the country to have FGM performed on them. Part of my role – and the role of the National FGM Centre as a unit – is to deliver awareness sessions to social work teams, children centre staff and early years teams.

The more people we can educate about the dangers of FGM and what to look out for in girls who may be at risk, the more girls we hope to save.”