Thousands of girls and young women across Greater Manchester will be supported and protected from the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation thanks to a ground-breaking new service launched this week.
Led by charities NESTAC and AFRUCA, and supported by Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd and the Greater Manchester FGM Forum, the Guardian Project will coordinate care and support for young girls affected by or at risk of female genital mutilation.
Although illegal in the UK, the practice is becoming increasingly prevalent with more than 2,000 girls living in Greater Manchester estimated to be at risk. More than 100 girls and young women who had suffered female genital mutilation were seen by health services in Greater Manchester in the last year, and 670 cases were identified by local health professionals. But it is thought many more victims are suffering in silence.
The Guardian Project is one of a number of initiatives announced today at a regional conference exploring issues of female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour-based abuse.
More than 140 organisations, including police, councils, health professionals and voluntary and community organisations have come together to share best practice, raise awareness and provide agencies and communities with the tools to tackle these hidden issues.
The Greater Manchester Female Genital Mutilation strategy, which was launched at the event, lays the foundation for all agencies and communities to work together to protect young women and girls from this abuse, providing a consistent and coordinated network of support, safeguarding and increased awareness of the issue across Greater Manchester.
Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “Female genital mutilation is child abuse and it is happening right here on our doorstep. We cannot stand by while our children are subjected to this illegal, life-threatening practice that has a devastating physical and emotional impact on its victims.
“In Greater Manchester, we have already taken steps to start tackling the issue by educating frontline staff and raising public awareness. But we also need to ensure that women and girls can get help and support from people who understand what they’re going through and thanks to the Guardian Project, teachers, healthcare workers and social care professionals now have access to that expert advice. This project is a lifeline to victims of this barbaric crime.”
Peggy Mulongo from the Guardian Project said: “The Guardian Project is a perfect example of successful partnership working. It brings together expertise and knowledge of two specialist FGM organisations to address the prevailing gap in standardised and coordinated care and support for girls and young women (under 21) affected by or at risk of FGM in Greater Manchester. This is an initiative which has been so much in demand by professionals, and we are happy to demonstrate the power of collaborative work which challenges duplication of services.”