This year the Hemraj Goyal Foundation (HGF) has teamed up with Barnardo’s, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National FGM Centre (NFGMC) to host a series of educational events targeted at raising awareness and delivering the key messages about female genital mutilation (FGM) across all professions; from medical experts to school teachers to social workers.
On Monday 9th July 2018, over 100 delegates were welcomed by staff and volunteers from all three organisations, as professionals and campaigners arrived at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for the full-day conference. Delegates travelled from near and far – with one guest travelling as far as Sierra Leone in order to attend the annual event, paying homage to how strong the agenda, line-up and overall message of these events is.
The day started with introductions from both Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan and HGF Director Anita Goyal, followed by a range of expert perspectives and teachings from guest speakers. Guests included FGM Midwife Juliet Albert, and Dr Nimmi Parikh, a Clinical Psychologist, who gave medical overviews of the effects of FGM relating first to the physical and then to the mental respectively.
Perhaps the most powerful moment of the morning session was the screening of ‘A Small Nick or Cut they Say’; a short video which hears the first-hand experiences of a range of women. Culminating in the quote “I am not a victim or a survivor. I am just a girl bearing the weight of tradition”, the video summed up a very informative morning by showing the deeply emotional viewpoint of the women affected.
The video was followed up by a presentation from Inspector Allen Davis of the Met Police, who delved into detail on Project Azure; the Metropolitan Police’s response to Female Genital Mutilation which classifies FGM as child abuse. While it is clear that FGM is illegal in this country, with a definitive listing in the Serious Crimes Act 2015, Inspector Davis summed up his presentation with a powerful realisation – “We cannot prosecute FGM into extinction”.
The highlight of the conference for many was an engaging presentation in the afternoon by a group of Year 6 students from Norbury Primary School. By talking the audience through what they are learning about FGM as part of their science curriculum, and by introducing delegates to the NSPCC “PANTS” learning tool which helps and teaches children to keep themselves safe from abuse, the 10-year olds addressed and were able to break down the barrier that they referred to as “grown up awkwardness”.
Delegates and organisers alike left the conference feeling enlightened, educated and motivated to continue the fight against FGM. Progress has been made already, as addressed by Anita Goyal who commented on and praised the inclusion of FGM in both the school curriculum and teacher training, which was not present during her own teaching career, when she taught in secondary schools in both Stratford and Romford. However, there is still a long way to go to bringing this practice to an end.