There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in England and Wales, with a further 60,000 girls at risk.
These figures highlight the magnitude to which these harmful acts are being carried out, but what they don’t show is the suffering and realities experienced by vulnerable girls and women across the country.
There has been some progress in recent years to try to curb the practise of FGM; the Serious Crimes Act 2015 toughened sentences for those responsible and the introduction of the FGM unit in 2014 has helped to improve the local response to tackling FGM. Yet, even with this progress, the power of education continues to be ignored, and thus has become a significant gap in the prevention of FGM.
Safeguarding children through education
From research conducted by Youth for Change in 2017, 90% of young people surveyed said that learning about FGM as part of Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) would help to protect and empower them and their peers. This response shows just how important young people regard the need to be informed, empowered and educated of their rights.
Our Train to Protect campaign has aimed to make schools in the UK a safer place to report FGM and child marriage. Teachers and schools play a crucial role in young people's lives, and education is a powerful way to make change. By ensuring school staff and students are aware of these issues, cases can be prevented from happening and young people can at risk can be given the right support.
To achieve this goal we have been working to change education policy and provide training for schools. Last year we held sessions on FGM and child and early forced marriage (CEFM) prevention for teachers and students. We also held the first ever National Schools Conference on combating FGM and child marriage, attended by over 100 teachers.
RSE consultations – our chance to get it right
Now more than ever we have an exciting and unique opportunity to tackle these issues in the UK. As of 2019, Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) will be compulsory in every school.
Education on FGM and CEFM through RSE could play a vital role in helping to end these harmful practices. It will properly prepare young people, educate people about the issues, as well as how to report or how victims can seek support. Hence, this will enable young people to protect both themselves and others against gender-based violence.
This is an opportunity we cannot miss! Consultations about the new RSE curriculum are now open
This provides the chance to make sure that young people are educated about FGM, CEFM and other forms of gender-based violence. The current RSE guidelines were created in 2000, it is therefore incredibly important that you engage in this consultation to ensure that the curriculum reflects and prepares for the world young people live in today.
The consultation closes on 12 February 2018, and on International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, it won’t take long to engage in it, and include FGM and CEFM in your suggestions. So use this chance to have your say to #EndFGM.