Rejecting Female Genital Mutilation in Ireland
Working to end FGM in Ireland
ActionAid Ireland continues to champion education surrounding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Ireland. ActionAid Ireland is currently a member of the National Steering Committee on FGM.
What is FGM
FGM refers to all procedures that involve the partial or total destruction of the external female genitalia. Or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. In some countries around the world, mainly in parts of Africa Asia and the Middle East FGM is a harmful cultural practice and an extreme form of sanctioned violence and discrimination against women.
Statistics on FGM in Ireland
FGM is a global problem that constitutes a severe violation of fundamental rights and dignity. It is estimated to affect at least 200 million women and girls around the world, although the exact figure remains unknown.
Women and girls living in Europe are most at risk of FGM when they return to their countries of origin during holiday periods such as Easter and Christmas. In Ireland, it is estimated that 5,790 women have experienced FGM.
ActionAid Ireland’s work to end FGM
Our FGM project is aimed at preventing female genital mutilations through empowerment and awareness-raising activities using an ActionAid methodology that has been successful in Africa. The approach, Reflective Action, draws on learning from the south to north. We will be working in direct provision centres around Ireland, targeting women and men who are predominately from FGM practicing countries. As ActionAid Ireland cannot currently deliver our FGM work face-to-face due to coronavirus restrictions, we will carry out trainings online.
The practice of FGM is usually targeted at schoolgirls, with FGM ceremonies planned in their parent’s home countries to coincide with holiday breaks but it can also happen right here in Ireland. In the current situation, intermittent opening/closing of school and travel restrictions; ActionAid Ireland believes, with the lack of opportunity to travel to home countries and confinement to family homes, there is a serious danger the practice will continue and indeed increase here in Ireland.
This project is generously supported by Rethink Ireland.
In 2016, the Against FGM through Empowerment & Rejection (AFTER) project was founded to raise awareness of the harmful effects of FGM in migrant communities. In 2018, Phase 1 of the AFTER Project was completed. The project was run by ActionAid Ireland in partnership with AkiDwA, the national network for migrant women in Ireland.
Before the implementation of the AFTER project, 1 in 5 interviewees in Cork City and county stated that they were not aware that FGM was illegal in Ireland. In addition, less than 30% of AFTER participants had received training on FGM as part of general training on reducing violence against women.
During Phase 1, a number of key initiatives were realised:
- 36 workshops were conducted in Cork with women, men and girls from migrant communities. These workshops aimed to raise awareness about women’s rights to bodily integrity. And they encourage an open and meaningful dialogue around women’s rights in general. 100 direct participants were reached through these workshops.
- ActionAid Ireland lobbied on a local, national and European level about the dangers of FGM. A briefing event for MEPs was held in Brussels, attended most notably by Mairead McGuinness (Vice-President of the European Parliament).
- The documentary “Girls from Earth” was produced. This included 10 video testimonies from religious leaders, women and African activists against FGM.
- An international conference was held in Toledo in 2018 to present the results of the project.
- Film screenings, local events and ‘Testimony Tours’ involving ex-circumcisers and local decision-makers worked to raise awareness in the wider community.
The AFTER project was supported by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) programme of the European Union. The aim was to work with migrant women and girls from FGM practicing countries. The project was implemented across five European countries (Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Sweden) by six partners.
Following the completion of Phase 1, ActionAid Ireland was requested by the Direct Provision Centres to continue the work with new residents. And so, in May 2019, ‘AFTER 2’ officially began. This work was funded by the Permanent TSB Staff Fund. The training was conducted by the facilitator trained under the initial AFTER project.
The Empowerment Paths methodology seeks to empower women and men from FGM practicing countries. We aim to prevent young girls and children from undergoing the practice in the future. Participatory methodologies are used in group discussions to allow women, girls and men of any education level to participate and contribute to the debate.
REFLECT-Action, a reflective methodology, was used to organise and frame the discussions. This method has been used successfully by ActionAid for many years working with communities in developing countries. As a result, the approach has also been used by over 500 organisations in 70 different countries globally, all reporting positive results in the fight against FGM.
Expanding the work
ActionAid also hopes to expand the work to other centres. And so, with further funding, Phase 2 of AFTER could:
- Carry out 8 Empowerment Paths (12 workshops in each) with different groups of women, men, boys and girls in Direct Provision centres.
- Reach 400 people nationwide with face to face engagements about FGM.
- Work with four national-level organisations (An Garda Siochana, Tusla, HSE and teacher’s unions) to equip their members with the skills necessary to address cases of FGM.
- Engage 30 Champions for Change, including high-profile individuals, to advocate against FGM/C and for better services for survivors.
FGM Policy in Ireland
We welcome the HSE Intercultural Health Strategy launched in January 2019, which includes 2 actions on FGM. According to the Strategy, the HSE will commit to:
- Continuing to develop and implement education and public awareness campaigns, among all health professionals and communities affected by female genital mutilation (FGM), to raise awareness that it is a criminal offense under the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act (2012) to perform FGM or to remove a girl from the State for the purpose of FGM.
- Providing training to increase the knowledge and competence of healthcare providers, and other relevant frontline professionals, in relation to appropriate care and protection for FGM survivors and women and girls at risk nationwide.
ActionAid Ireland hopes that it can make a solid and lasting contribution to this Strategy.
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