Today marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The day is a rallying cry to call attention to this harmful practice involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia.
This has been performed on 130 million girls in the world today, and often has devastating health implications for women and girls. Now, more than ever, is such a crucial time for women’s rights globally. Today marks a significant moment in women’s history: we could eliminate FGM worldwide, within a generation.
But stopping this practice is no easy task, as culture and beliefs are two of the most difficult things to change.
In the UK alone there are an estimated 60,000 girls living with it or at risk of FGM. As Youth for Change UK, we believe education is the only realistic way to change culture and end the practice of FGM.
Schools are key places where young people can be protected. That’s why we are calling for safeguarding training for all school staff on how to spot the signs of FGM, how to prevent cases from happening, and how to respond if a young person confides in them. In October we ran the first National School’s Conference on FGM and “honour based violence” in the UK. The event was attended by over 100 teachers, students, and professionals from the police force and the NHS.
When asked if they had safeguarding training in their school, one teacher said: “You can never have enough training. It should be compulsory, and updated regularly.”
However we can’t just focus on the most high risk areas in the UK. Girls living in low risk areas, who are under threat of FGM, are in danger of being missed. That is why we need a national approach, and training for all school staff and students. We need everyone in our communities to be aware this is happening, and ensure we leave no one behind.