Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a severe form of violence against women and girls, and should be treated as child abuse. FGM covers 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. The Tackling FGM Initiative (which ran from 2010 to 2016), aimed to strengthen community-based prevention work within FGM affected communities.

What’s the issue?

An estimated 137,000 women and girls  affected by FGM, and born in countries where FGM is practised, were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011. The high numbers of women and girls affected by FGM underlies the urgent need for action to protect girls who are at risk, and to support women who have undergone FGM.

What did we do?

The Tackling FGM Initiative aimed to strengthen community-based prevention work within FGM affected communities in England and Wales. We funded this Initiative along with three other groups – Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Rosa – the UK Women’s Fund and Comic Relief.

By supporting organisations based in affected communities, the Initiative aimed to strengthen the voice of women and children already affected by, or at risk of, genital mutilation in all its forms. The Initiative started in 2010 with an £1 million investment. This funded 14 organisations, 7 of which worked in London. The first phase of the work finished in Spring 2013. A second phase, with a further investment of £1.8 million, was completed in 2016.

We had regular conversations with government, faith leaders, local statutory agencies and other interested bodies about promoting and sharing the learning from the work.

Trust for London continues to support policy work to embed the learning from the Initiative. Saria Khalifa (0207 697 3466) is the policy lead and is based at Rosa – the UK Women’s fund.

For more information on tackling FGM, read the Best Practice Guide.

What we’ve learnt

  • Community-based prevention work has led to an increased rejection of FGM.
  • Awareness of FGM has increased both locally and on a national level.
  • Affected communities are supporting a stronger stance against FGM by UK authorities.
  • Working with younger women to empower them to speak out and make decisions is very effective.
  • Bringing together both male and female religious leaders helps dismiss the perceived religious basis for FGM.
  • Community groups can help provide the right techniques for tackling FGM, including safe spaces to discuss the issue and better networks between communities and professionals.
  • FGM prevention requires all parties to work together: communities, professionals, authorities and policy makers.

What was achieved

  • The arguments used by funded groups against FGM became more sophisticated and generated insights into what works in changing attitudes within affected communities in the UK. A stronger network of community-based organisations also evolved, building the confidence of activists to speak out against the practice – contributing to increasing the profile of FGM, in affected communities and in public debate.
  • Evidence of good practice from the FGM Initiative has contributed significantly to the Home Office’s resource pack for Local Authorities.
  • A report providing provisional estimates of the numbers of women with FGM living in England and Wales by local authority area was published in July 2015 - funded jointly by Trust for London and the Home Office, and undertaken by Equality Now and City University. The report also included the estimated numbers of women with FGM giving birth and the numbers of girls born to women with FGM in the UK, both by local authority area.

What’s the evidence?

A final evaluation of the Tackling FGM Initiative was published in July 2016. This highlights the key findings from the six-year long initiative and makes a number of recommendations to government, statutory agencies and community organisations, about what needs to be done to tackle the issue and increase prevention in the UK. An interim evaluation was published in 2013.

July 2016

The Tackling Female Genital Mutilation Initiative (2010-2016)

July 2013

Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in the UK: What works in community-based prevention work. Summary reportFull report.

May 2013

PEER Study – Summary

The impact of the funded groups was evaluated using a Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation Research (PEER) approach, which provides insights into sensitive issues people are reluctant to discuss openly. PEER provides rich narrative data about the ways in which people conceptualise and talk about FGM in their daily lives. It does not provide prevalence (quantitative) data on how many cases of FGM there are, or how many women/girls are at risk. However, PEER does provide insights into what is affecting peoples’ decision making, and community-based views on interventions to address FGM.

July 2012

Report of the Open Space event – What will it take to end FGM in the UK?

What else is happening?

A new mandatory reporting duty for FGM was introduced on 31 October 2015 as part of the Serious Crime Act 2015, following a public consultation. The duty requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18-year-olds to the police. Here is a fact sheet on mandatory reporting of FGM.

The Home Affairs Select Committee published its second report Female genital mutilation: the case for a national action plan in June 2014. The report draws on the work of the FGM initiative.

Where can I find out more?

For more information on tackling FGM, read the Best Practice Guide.

Updated in April 2016, the UK Government’s Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines for FGM provides advice and support to frontline professionals.

NSPCC FGM Helpline: A 24 hour helpline to provide support to women and girls affected by FGM, and to anyone concerned about a child at risk 0800 028 3550.

FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development): The lead UK charity working to end FGM. Help and information line (open weekdays 9.30 am – 6.30pm) 0208 960 4000.

Metropolitan Police Service’s response to FGM, Project Azure: 0207 230 8324

Recent health data on FGM can be found at the Health & Social Care Information Centre.