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The West Midlands police in collaboration with FORWARD yesterday organised a study day for West Midlands education professionals, at Lord knights suit, Tally Ho conference hall, Birmingham. The aim of the conference was to get school teachers to be more familiar with the consequences of FGM as well as to introduce it into their school curriculum so as to tackle the practice in the schools community.

In her Presentation on “Understanding the basics of FGM”, Alison Byrne, specialist midwife and FGM at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, highlighted types; terminology; cultural context of FGM and its health and social consequences. According to her, “FGM is harmful to girls and it lives with them till the end of their lives and gets even worst during pregnancy period and child birth. I receive lots of FGM survivor women weekly, who needs help at all cost”.

Hodo Ali, FGM survivor, also shared her ordeal story about the practice and called on everyone to try and protect girls from it as according to her it could leads to many health complications such as amenorrhea. “In most women with amenorrhea, the ovaries do not release an egg. Such women cannot become pregnant” she lamented.

Miss Ali went further to urge teachers to be very observance on the pupils at school.  Some of the pupils could change after a returned from summer holiday and any female pupil with a different mode should be given attention and questioned. She revealed, “As many girls become circumcised when they go on holidays outside UK.”

For her part, Detective Constable Gillian Squires of Public Protection Unit, West Midlands Police, appealed to the participant to render support in breaking the culture of silence and report any case of FGM. “This practice is still happening here in the UK, and all we need now is to protect the girls as FGM is a child abuse and should be reported and dealt with.” Detective Constable Squires, however, reveals that from 2001 to date they have been receiving numerous case referrals, and urged teachers to introduce FGM in schools; talk; engage the community and be confident in making referrals to the authorities.

During her presentation on “Responding to FGM”, Saria Khalifa, youth programme leader, FORWARD, said “FGM education should be introduced in schools with the aim of creating an open environment where pupils feel comfortable to discuss the problems they are facing”. Saria also informed the conference that there will be school programmes that would include staff training on FGM; student awareness sessions; youth friendly resources; parent sessions; supporting pupils to take part in the campaign; etc.

In her closing remark the Director of FORWARD, Naana Otoo-Oyortey, said their aim is to get FGM into schools, work with communities to raise awareness as some people she added don’t think the practice is wrong. “I think FGM is a hidden crime and continues to be a taboo to talk about but it’s time for someone to break the silent and eradicate this taboo”. She described communities as the key in ending FGM and called on their engagement to be championed by coming forward and working with them to end the practice. “I know some might be wondering that we (FORWARD/campaigners) have been here for long but we need to see a world free from FGM first before we can go”, she postulated.

She finally thanked all the participants for their time and contributions and urged them all to stand up firmly and work together to make change happen. Other speakers included Birmingham-Solihull Women’s Aid, Integrate Bristol, and individuals. The day was observed by lots of groups across the West Midlands.