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Live webchat about FGM and violence against women with Lynne Featherstone, MP, minister at the Department for International Development, Thursday 20 June, 1pm-2pm.

(110 Posts)
MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Jun-13 14:46:27

Hello

We'll be welcoming Lib Dem MP and International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone this Thursday from 1pm - 2pm for a LIVE webchat.

As Minister Lynne leads on the government's Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy; the UK's international development programme in Africa; and on issues such as malaria, water and sanitation, polio and HIV. She is especially interested in your questions around the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision. Lynne spearheaded a government announcement earlier this year on a five-year programme to help end FGM within a generation.

FGM is illegal in the UK, but it is estimated that up to 20,000 girls in the UK are at risk of suffering genital mutilation, and that more than 60,000 women have already been cut. With UK schools' summer holidays fast-approaching, the risk to thousands of girls living in the UK is at its highest, as many girls return to visit their extended families in Africa, where over 95% of all FGM takes place.

Join us this Thursday to find out more about UK's work to end FGM in Africa and beyond, and - if interested - listen in advance to a podcast of three activists working to end FGM within Africa and the UK. You can also find out more on FGM - what it is, its risks and practices - here.

The Minister will be interested in hearing your thoughts and questions on this, and more of course. Please do join us on the day or, as ever, post your question in advance below.

Thanks
MNHQ

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:12:06

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper

I was wondering, what happens if a girl knows she is going to be mutiliated or sent abroad for that reason? Is there anywhere she can go for help or to escape that situation?

If a girl in the UK is concerned that she (or a friend) is at risk of FGM or that someone may be taken overseas for FGM they should call the police – 999. If someone is abroad and needs help or advice, they can call the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on +44 (0) 20 7008 1500.

There are also some extremely good organisations which can help – like Daughters of Eve 07983 030488. Childline 0800 1111, www.childline.org. Or Equality Now (in Nairobi, Kenya, and London), tel (London): +44(0) 20-7973 1292, (Nairobi): +254 20 271 832, www.equality now.org.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:15:48

LineRunner

Lynne, could I ask please about your reply to Bicnod:

Which governments, specifically?

And do you agree with her, as do I (regretfully IYSWIM) that a lot of local opposition will come from women, and so how will this actually be tackled?

The UN programme works in 15 countries in Africa, for example Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Senegal and Ethiopia. There is a list online, which I can post to this thread later.

In terms of whether local woman disagree: there are issues around women's attitudes towards violence against women and it's been certainly shocking to find that there's a higher percentage of women who think it's okay for a man to abuse his wife than among men themselves in some countries. In terms of FGM itself, whilst women organise it and carry it out generally, it stems from the requirement to get a man for a husband and it's - in my view - a double-damage that women have come to carry this out on behalf of their communities.

There's a very strong women's movement in Africa to end FGM and they are the agents of change, which has now delivered, not only the UN General Assembly Resolution calling for a global ban, but also ensured that 25 African countries have now made it constitutionally illegal. Of course the law is not the end of this, but it's a very good start.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:16:32

MiniTheMinx

Hi Lynne, I am very glad that an effort is now being made to eradicate this barbaric abuse of women and girls.

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment by Tahira S. Khan, A Historical Materialist Explanation of Honour Related Violence.

One of the points the book makes and that I fully endorse it that the material and economic basis of peoples lives drive culture and religion. Practice shapes ideology rather than ideas shaping practice.

Nawal El Saadawi www.nawalsaadawi.net/ says "The life of the people and their essential needs are dependent on economics and not on religion. Throughout human history the standards and values of religion have themselves been shaped by the economy. The oppression of women in any society is in its turn a statement of an economic structure built on land ownership, systems of inheritance and parenthood and the patriarchal family an an inbuilt social unit"

I have read a couple of the links and found the "business case" I would like to ask two things.

1) what sort of organisations will be invited to tender for the frontline work and research?

2) In view of the fact that economics shapes lives and ideology, women's oppression is tied to the means of production and ownership of resources, I feel that no ideological or cultural change can happen without changes to the economic base structure that underpins all social relations, creating vast inequalities of wealth and therefore social power. Will the vast sums of money being invested into this project, be used effectively to train, empower and support WOMEN in these communities to be agents of change.

Or is this another case of western cultural and economic imperialism forcing our own ideologies whilst still perpetuating the same inhumane patriarchal economic system of capitalism? A system that is actually at the root of women's oppression. Patriarchal private ownership of all resources from cotton and food to women's bodies is the starting point for any critical analysis and effort for change. There is always a tendency to focus on cultural norms, this is cart before horse and an attempt to eradicate proper analysis and ward off any criticism of our economic system.

Hi MinitheMinx

To take your 3rd question first...

We are absolutely clear that our work on FGM is about supporting an Africa-led movement. There is a lot of momentum now within Africa to end FGM, with communities deciding to stop, new laws and policies, leadership from first ladies and politicians. A resolution was passed at the United Nations General Assembly last December calling for a global ban – this was led by the Africa Group at the UN. The UK's role is to support these efforts and to encourage others to do so.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:16:53

Italiangreyhound

Can we learn any lessons from the way foot binding was eradicated in China (in a relatively short time) in relation to FGM?

Yes. I often use this comparison in speeches i give about FGM because that is exactly the possibility that is held out - a very quick ending once this ball is really rolling.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:17:47

MiniTheMinx

2) In view of the fact that economics shapes lives and ideology, women's oppression is tied to the means of production and ownership of resources, I feel that no ideological or cultural change can happen without changes to the economic base structure that underpins all social relations, creating vast inequalities of wealth and therefore social power. Will the vast sums of money being invested into this project, be used effectively to train, empower and support WOMEN in these communities to be agents of change.

Yes – this whole programme is part of the UK government's commitment to put girls and women at the heart of our development efforts, and we believe that supporting women and girls to have power to being about this change themselves is fundamental.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:19:40

MiniTheMinx

1) what sort of organisations will be invited to tender for the frontline work and research?

There are three parts to the programme. The first includes work on the ground with communities and work to support changes in laws and policies in different African counties. The second is about helping the change movement in communities and countries with good communications and information about FGM. We have just started a competitive tendering process for this. The final component is the research. There is still not a lot of good information about FGM and what is the best way of tackling it. We are still deciding on exactly how this part of the programme will work but we're planning to start a competitive tendering process later in the year.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:19:56

Hi Lynne - thanks for answering one of my questions and for your reply to LineRunner.

Can I just follow up by asking for more on how local opposition from local women will be addressed? You say that whilst women organise it and carry it out generally, it stems from the requirement to get a man for a husband - so how will you begin to address this on the ground with local women? Women who want the best for their daughters and truly see FGM as the only way of getting that?

I know the law is a good place to start, but enforcing the law on this is going to be massively challenging if local women are not on board.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:20:53

Also - please can you answer my third question about how long the UK government will remain committed (i.e. with funding) to this programme?

slug Thu 20-Jun-13 13:21:00

Hi Lynne

Not a question. Just wanted to say thanks for obviously taking the time to read and prepare responses for some of the questions on this thread before you came on. Either that or you are a damn fast reader and typist. I think you've already managed to answer more questions than yer mate Dave did in the entire hour he was on.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:22:15

It's important also to remember that prosecution relies on an often young girl being willing to give evidence, often against her family, which can be very difficult particularly if pressure is put on her from her family or community.

That's disingenuous, though. The same used to be said about DV. There are myriad ways to recognise and gather evidence of a crime, and prosecute it. But you have to recognise it as a crime first, not just some kind of private complaint.

If a daughter who lives with me suddenly turned up at school with her genitals mutilated, I would expect to be prosecuted for at the very minimum neglect, even without a statement from her.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:23:16

MerryMarigold

This question has been asked, but I wanted to ask it again: why has their never been a prosecution in this country for FGM? Not sure this is your remit, but is there anything you can do in this area?

Also, I believe more schools in this country need training on spotting the signs and then in dealing with it. Are there any plans in place for this?

Thanks to all those who've addressed this point.

It's one of the most frustrating things to not have had a successful prosecution. There's a lot of work going on in the Home Office. Some of it is awareness raising, such as guidelines for front-line workers (doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers). The Director of Public Prosecutions has published an action plan on how we might better get the evidence needed for prosecution. Clearly girls are either too young or unwilling to give evidence against their parents, for example; however, Jeremy Browne (who is a Home Office Minister) and myself are meeting with the MET Police lead on child abuse in the next two weeks, who has publicly stated himself that he is on a mission to relentlessly pursue FGM cases in London.

I think it really is important to get a prosecution to send out a really clear message. However we have upwards of 20,000 girls of risk each year and another part of the answer has to be behaviour change because we're never going to put 20,000 sets of parents in prison. We need prosecutions; we need behaviour change; and we need everyone out there to help us.

So if you think a girl is in danger, then please contact any of the organisations referred to in my earlier post (At 13:12)

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:25:00

Bicnod

Also - please can you answer my third question about how long the UK government will remain committed (i.e. with funding) to this programme?

We've committed to reduce FGM over five years by 30% in at least 10 countries. But this is the start-up. We expect to galvanise a world movement to join in this endeavour. We expect our programme to run for at least 10 years.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:25:17

Yes, I support slug in saying that this is a really good and productive web chat with a politician.

MerryMarigold Thu 20-Jun-13 13:27:01

I know it's hard to get a prosecution, and of course so many parents could never be prosecuted. [Though I am sure it would act as a deterrent]. I just wonder how other countries have managed to get prosecutions.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:27:41

RiotsNotDiets

In France, the genitals of young girls in practicing diaspora groups are routinely checked for evidence of FGM as a prevention method.

In FGM discussions, I often hear people calling for similar measures in the UK.

However, I believe that this is a gross intrusion of privacy and is degrading and discriminatory. I also think that this would only serve as a means to push FGM practice further underground and perpetuate an 'us and them' dialogue.

While girls were in the right age group for the checks they would be safe from being subjected to FGM, however I believe this would simply encourage the practice to be postponed until the girl was old enough to refuse the checks.

I was wondering if you agreed with me, or if you feel that FGM checks are an effective and appropriate way to protect girls at risk of FGM? Do you think that this is a method the UK would employ, and if not how do you hope to protect girls at risk?

In France the girl babies are checked once a year to the age of 5/6 and genitally examined. Given that this is very specifically practiced by specific communities, it wouldn't seem the best approach or use of resources to examine our girls in that way.

The Public Health Minister came with me to an FGM clinic in London to talk to survivors and to look at ways of advice and intervention that would enable the community to both know more but also to suggest timely interventions where we could address particular issues.

Bicnod Thu 20-Jun-13 13:27:56

Yes - I'll third that - LynneFeatherstone wining the politicians' battle of the webchats so far grin

worldvision Thu 20-Jun-13 13:28:05

Dear Ms Featherstone,

World Vision congratulate you on your commitment to tackling violence against women and girls, and particularly harmful practices like FGM/C and child marriage that are so rooted in gender inequality. It is great to read from your response to GirlsNotBrides that DFID recognise the link between child marriage and FGM/C.

With this approach in mind, will some of the funding that DFID have committed go towards tackling child marriage, alongside efforts to eradicate FGM/C?

It would be great to see a declaration of commitment from the UK Government to ending child marriage in a generation, as well as FGM/C. Is this something you would support?

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:31:35

LineRunner

*It's important also to remember that prosecution relies on an often young girl being willing to give evidence, often against her family, which can be very difficult particularly if pressure is put on her from her family or community.*

That's disingenuous, though. The same used to be said about DV. There are myriad ways to recognise and gather evidence of a crime, and prosecute it. But you have to recognise it as a crime first, not just some kind of private complaint.

If a daughter who lives with me suddenly turned up at school with her genitals mutilated, I would expect to be prosecuted for at the very minimum neglect, even without a statement from her.

This is child abuse and of course prosecution is absolutely vital, but the focus when i meet the Met Police's lead on child abuse, will be to understand how we can get a prosecution against cutters or doctors practicing this illegally in the first instance.

If in the example you give, the girl came to her teacher and said 'i have been mutilated', then i would expect a prosecution to follow as you say, regardless of any other circumstances.

MiniTheMinx Thu 20-Jun-13 13:32:08

Thank you Lynne,

Thinking about a point that was made by IntlPlannedParenthoodFed can I ask one more question?

As attitudes change towards this practice and the prevalence of FGM decreases, how can we be sure that women here and in other countries who have been cut are able to access health services without feeling they might be stigmatised? I ask because a recent documentary touched upon this, some women were having home births in the UK and declining medical help because they feared that hospitals/doctors would have a negative opinion & question them because they had been cut.

phineasa Thu 20-Jun-13 13:34:51

HI Lynne,

5:30 am here in Tucson, Arizona. Just held a meeting of key FGC players
in D.C. to discuss next steps. Whom do you first want to approach here in the USA about securing funds from our side? We might be able to help.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:36:02

IntlPlannedParenthoodFed

Hi Lynne,
We applaud DFID for the initiative to end FGM and for helping bring the harmful effects of this practice to attention.

As a global organization leading on sexual and reproductive health, IPPF has always had a fruitful partnership with DFID, coming together to deliver sexual and reproductive health services and advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights for the world's most marginalized and under-served communities.

It is the world's poorest women and girls who suffer as a result of denied access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. FGM is one terrible example of this.

IPPF has been working in the Seguela district in Cote d'Ivoire where the prevalence of FGM is a staggering 88%. The overall aim of the project was to reduce the prevalence of FGM in the district, with an emphasis on changing attitudes at the community level. Key achievements of IPPF's addressing FGM project were:
- 202,000 people attended awareness raising activities around the abandonment of FGM, health implications of FGM, the law against FGM and forced marriage
- 4 arrests made
- 17 ex-practitioners agreed to abandon the practice of FGM

We know that FGM has a negative lifetime impact on women who have been cut. IPPF asks:

* How will the initiative ensure that, there is no additional stigma or discrimination against women who have had this procedure practiced on them?

* What are DFID's actions to strengthen health system responses for survivors?

* What role does DFID see men & boys playing in changing social norms and ending FGM?

The work DFID is doing is in the developing world - and yes boys and men are absolutely crucial to the work going on there. I went to Senegal to visit the work of one organisation called Tostan, who have a two and a half year programme with a community. At the end of that period, if the community decides - and that's having done nearly three years' work all-inclusive of the religious leaders, the men, the boys, the women, and the children - to abandon FGM, then have a public declaration of abandonment (a bit like swearing an oath), it is delivered. Without the whole community, that would never be possible.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:37:49

RukayahFORWARD

Minister,

(a) Britain has taken a lead on working to secure a global end to FGM. However, there still isn?t accurate data on the number of women and girls affected by FGM in the UK. What plans does the Government have in place to gather data on the occurrence of FGM?

(b) Girls and women affected by FGM require specialised health and support services. What is the UK Government doing to ensure that support for girls and women who have undergone or are affected by FGM is readily available, and easily accessible?

Rukayah Sarumi
Campaigns and Advocacy Manager
FORWARD (UK's lead organisation tackling FGM)

This in referring to your first question re. data. That is an issue I've discussed with Jeremy Browne (the Home Office minister responsible) and they're currently looking into how this can best be achieved.

LynneFeatherstone Thu 20-Jun-13 13:39:56

phineasa

HI Lynne,

5:30 am here in Tucson, Arizona. Just held a meeting of key FGC players
in D.C. to discuss next steps. Whom do you first want to approach here in the USA about securing funds from our side? We might be able to help.

Great to hear that Tucson is on it! We're already in contact with USAID and I've spoken to Bill Gates myself on this issue, but more help always welcome. PM Mumsnet you contact details and I'll be in touch.

LineRunner Thu 20-Jun-13 13:41:21

Lynne

Thank you for answering my questions so frankly.

What do you need from us to help secure future funding?

And just, thank you. (An often thankless task being a politician, I can imagine.)

liger Thu 20-Jun-13 13:41:34

I have too many small children bouncing all over me to add follow up comments - but am following as best I can.

MNHQ - more web chats like this please, less of the Holly/ Kelly promotion stuff from what I gathered of that.

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