Nursery staff trained to spot risk of genital mutilation in babies thanks to pioneering Islington scheme

FGM is practiced in parts of Africa and the middle east. Pic: Julien Behal/PAto

FGM is practiced in parts of Africa and the middle east. Pic: Julien Behal/PAto - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Children and babies under four years old are being watched for signs of female genital mutilation (FGM) in a pioneering new scheme.

Staff at two nurseries in Islington have received special training to help recognise youngsters in danger of suffering the archaic and violent disfigurement practice.

As the Gazette revealed last year, up to 2,000 young women in the borough could be at risk of FGM – with 1,300 high risk cases– and if the pilot scheme is successful it could be rolled out to all of Islington’s 16 children’s centres.

The National Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) recently voiced concerns girls are being cut at a younger age because parents are getting wise to the fact that teachers are now more aware of the issue.

Jennifer Savage, Islington Council’s family support and outreach manager, said: “We work with many mothers who have undergone FGM themselves and we provide them with support to deal with the consequences.

“The training gave me a stronger understanding of the pressures families face to practise FGM, and what I, as an individual, can do to help those families protect their daughters.”

She added: “The last half of the training was devoted to developing a local children’s centre action plan to raise awareness of FGM and help parents resist community and family pressures to have the procedures done to their daughters.”

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The three hour session, provided for health professionals, support workers, and creche staff, covered the types of FGM, where it’s practiced, the impact on girls who have undergone FGM and the legal, health and emotional consequences for parents and children – as well as the pressures families may come under form their communities.

The staff can then talk to parents of babies and very young girls who may be at risk of FGM, and help prevent it happening.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “We are strongly committed to tackling FGM in Islington. This pilot programme in children’s centres is part of a wider programme aimed at protecting girls from this practice.”

An estimated 200 Islington women who have undergone FGM themselves give birth in local hospitals each year – a specialist midwife works with each of them to convince them not to cut their daughters.

An NSPCC spokesperson said “It is really encouraging that more and more teachers and schoolgirls are becoming aware of FGM – however we believe this increased awareness is prompting some parents to make their children undergo this dreadful process when they are very young in a bid to avoid detection.

“It is imperative that professionals such as nursery staff and child-minders are also alert to the risk of FGM – and project’s like the one run by Islington Council are key if we are to end this horrendous form of child abuse.”