Female genital mutilation (FGM) is first and foremost a violation of girls’ and women’s human rights. There is no developmental, religious or health-related justification for the harmful practice.
FGM is the total or partial removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
FGM poses immediate risks to girls’ health including severe pain and bleeding, difficulty in passing urine, infections, and even death due to haemorrhagic or neurogenic shock.
The practice often leaves girls with long-term scars as well: post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, HIV infection, cysts, abscesses, genital ulcers, etc. They face an increased risk of complications affecting their menstrual cycles, sometimes resulting in infertility.
FGM is particularly common within African community, where nearly three in every four girls undergo the procedure. With immigration, it has spread to United Kingdom in general and Kent in particular, with some families having their daughters undergo the procedure while on vacation overseas.
Girls interviewed said they were forced, their parents threatened to stop them from going to School unless they were mutilated. Due to the parent’s ignorance or negligence as well as the girls lack of knowledge of prevention FGM and their constitutional rights they become victims and scarred for life.
Health Action Charity Organisation (HACO), is working to protect African girls and young women in Medway from the dangers of FGM through education and leadership training.
This practice a criminal offense. The first ever person convicted for female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK has been given an 11-year jail sentence.
The mother from Uganda, who was found guilty of cutting her three-year-old daughter, was also handed a further two years other offences – including distributing an indecent image of a child.
HACO END FGM PROJECT
We are going to carry out a one-day interactive conference with faith leaders, local African community members and police to explore how we can effectively work together to campaign against FGM and eradicate the risk of harm to women and girls.
Within a period of 12 months, the project will also train 10 FGM community champions from communities where FGM is practiced champions to raise awareness and support communities to end the FGM practice
FGM is carried out for cultural and social reason within the communities and there is no religious requirement for it.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non- medical reasons (WHO) It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision. There is no health benefit to FGM, and it is recognised internationally as a human rights violation
It is estimated that globally over 125 million women and girls had already undergone FGM and further 3million are at risk of undergoing the practice every year.
It is estimated that 137,000 women in the UK are affected by FGM. I am one of those women that is why I am spear heading the campaign in Medway.
In order to fully engage in our community outreach, work we are going to train dedicated team of community champions to raise awareness and support communities to end the FGM practice. The champions will be provided with skills and training to maximize their capacity and fully will be fully supported throughout their roles.
We will also recruit volunteer champions from outside the FGM practicing communities as we live in cosmopolitan UK society it is necessary for those not affected or at risk of FGM to understand what their peers are experiencing in order to help break down the stigma surrounding FGM and to recognise those in need of support.
Our FGM champions will be encouraged to engage in variety of tasks, including hosting and volunteering during Sister Circles (women only discussions) and Boys2Men talks; raising awareness through distributing posters and leaflets; public speaking at community, religious and cultural events and utilizing creative platforms such as poetry, arts and music to widen access to a range of audiences.
This project is funded through Tampon Tax Community Fund
Hidden truth is a project for African and non-African men living in Medway who are in abusive relationship. They meet once a month to socialise and get training on assertiveness, health and safety etc. It is a support Network that provides information, one to one support, counselling and available options to victims to prevent mental ill-health, alcohol dependency and reduce isolation. This is the first and one of its’ kind in the Medway.
When talking about Domestic violence we often refer to the victim of abuse as female, the abuser as male. We have realised that there are many men within our community who are either current victims of domestic abuse or have survived and escaped an abusive relationship; there are no support system for them in the area.
Many of the effects of abuse for the male victim of domestic violence are the same as for women.
A lot of male victims of abuse however, have great difficulty defining it as such. This is partially due to the image our African society generally has of a Man. Men are often thought of as strong, domineering and macho. Boys, even at a young age, are taught that it is unmanly to cry (“big boys don’t cry”). To many Africans, the idea of a grown man being frightened or vulnerable is a taboo.
The idea to embark on the project originated form one of the Faith leaders in Medway who have been overwhelmed by the number of men coming to him to seek advice about their situation at home. Within the African communities it is uncommon for men to be at the receiving end. HACO was asked to step in and get something done in other to bring the situation to the public so that whoever is in a similar situation will not go and kill them as a Zimbabwe man did in Sheffield because he could not take the humiliation anymore
• The information on Men abuse will increase their skills and confidence. They will know what to do if they are caught up in a violent relationship and where to go for help.
• As the names of the project indicate (The Hidden Truth) will now be an open truth. Victims will know that they are not alone, that there are many men out there like them.
Health Action Charity Organisation MBE (HACO) has broadened its strategic position from HIV prevention and support to focus on improving the general health and wellbeing of Africans living in the Medway area.
This change in direction follows HACO members’ own changing priorities locally.
There are still high rates of HIV amongst Africans, but recent improvements to HIV treatment mean that people living with HIV can expect to live longer. This is coupled with the documented susceptibility of people living with HIV to other related health conditions and issues which means it is no longer possible to address HIV in isolation.
The African community is also disproportionately and adversely affected by other health conditions, including sickle cell anemia and heart disease. Though HACO will still work on HIV and sexual health, emphasis will be on awareness and prevention of cancer, diabetes, stroke and mental health.
However, as our work develops, we continue to be led by our members and community and so we will develop new work streams concentrating on other health conditions and issues that affects our community.
We are at present carrying out projects on Domestic Abuse and support group for men in abusive relationships. This support group is for anyone from all background living in Medway. With funding from Tampon Tax community Fund, we are also addressing the issue of Female Genital Mutilation as it affects the African communities in Medway. See attached information flyers
Our African community-led responses to HIV have achieved significant successes and continue to represent the most effective means of responding to HIV in the African communities.
Mental health should be one of African community health priority. Black Africans have the highest rate of access to hospital in-patient care for those in contact with mental health services, at 16.5 per 100 mental health service users, compared with 8.5 in the White British group.
Currently there is not enough research being done into the impact of Stroke on the African community or the extent to which Africans know about stroke and its risk factors. This is going to be one of HACO’s priorities this year.
African and African-Caribbean people are up to three times more likely than the general population to have Type 2 diabetes. HACO notes the worrying evidence that Africans are at a twofold risk of diabetes – genetic and socio- economic.
The disproportionate levels of breast and prostate cancer in people of African origin warrant a specific, targeted and immediate response. Watch out for our Cancer awareness project coming soon.
We look forward to working with you all to improve the health and well being of Africans living in the Medway area. If you want to work with us, we are open to partnership working for the benefit of our community. You can e-mail or call us on 01634 844044