On 22 July, the Government and UNICEF, held the first Girl Summit aimed at mobilising efforts at home and abroad to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation.
The effects of FGM in the UK are wider reaching than we previously thought. Following a report by City University London and human rights organisation Equality Now (2014), it is now believed that more than 135 000 women and girls in the UK are FGM survivors—more than twice the previous estimate (NHS Choices, 2013). Furthermore, it is estimated that about 60 000 girls aged 0–14 years old were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM.
Prime Minister, David Cameron called on the global community to help. He said that ‘Britain doesn't have any special magic’ to stop these practices alone—so global action is needed. During the summit, the Government announced new action and funding to protect millions of girls from these atrocities. £1.4 million is to be spent on an FGM Prevention Programme, in partnership with NHS England, to help care for survivors and safeguard those at risk. Theresa May, Home Secretary, announced that a special unit will be set up in England to tackle FGM as part of a wide-ranging package of reforms to stop the practice in the UK (Topping, 2014). The laws around FGM will become strengthened; parents will be held responsible if their child is a victim of the practice and new legislation was announced that will mean they can be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughter being cut. May also announced that there will be a consultation to make it mandatory for professionals to report FGM. It is amazing that this is not already the case.
Much of the battle to end these practices lies in increasing cultural understanding and knowledge of FGM and CEFM; that is why the Girl Summit has taken to social media to help raise the profile and ask people to pledge support. So far, over 10 000 people have pledged via Twitter and Facebook, including celebrities such as actor and writer Stephen Fry and model Christy Turlington, and the message has reached more than 950 million people through these networks—such is the power and reach of social media.
Despite all the focus from high-profile celebrities and politicians, FGM won't be eradicated unless resources are put into the professionals on the ground. Midwives are often the first health professional that women who have undergone FGM see, they therefore have an important role in its detection and prevention. It's all well and good having a summit, but it won't mean a thing if midwives aren't supported with the time, resources and training to help end these abhorent practices in this generation.