Nina Murray is Women’s Policy Officer at the Scottish Refugee Council.
Just over a year on from the launch of our report, Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in Scotland: towards a Scottish model of intervention, and three years from Niki Kandirikirira’s article on FGM in Scotland in the inaugural edition of SJM, International Women’s Day 2016 (#IWD2016) feels like a good time to check-in on Scotland’s progress and its role in the global fight to #endFGM.
2015-2016 has seen the Scottish Government take important strides towards addressing FGM within the context of its wider work under Equally Safe to prevent and combat violence against all women and girls in Scotland, in all its forms. This year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM on 6 February saw the Scottish Government launch a comprehensive National Action Plan to Tackle FGM 2016-2020, which had been a key recommendation of our research.
Scottish Refugee Council welcomed the plan and its focus on the need for agencies and communities to work together across Scotland to prevent FGM, protect women and girls from the practice, and respond to the needs of survivors. Alongside the action plan, the Government will soon be publishing new multi-agency guidelines for practitioners to support all frontline agencies, both statutory and voluntary, who are working with communities affected by FGM in Scotland. But what we were most pleased to see reflected in the plan, was our call for investment in support for communities affected by FGM to have a voice and a clear role in this process of change, to influence policy and practice, as well as engaging with and influencing change within their own communities.
In the week leading up to International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, the Equal Opportunities Committee held an event at the Scottish Parliament to showcase some of the ongoing work in this area. Scotland-based third sector organisations, Dignity Alert Research Forum (DARF) and roshni, have been piloting an exciting new project, MyVoice, with young people, men and religious leaders, using participatory ethnographic evaluation and research (PEER) for the first time to tackle FGM in Scotland. A range of other organisations working hard to provide support to women in communities affected by FGM, raising awareness with men in specific communities in Glasgow, and delivering training and awareness raising workshops to statutory services right across Scotland, were also represented at the event.
All of this work is essential. However, as Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Social Justice, recognised at the launch of the action plan last month: a plan is just the beginning. What we now need to see is sustained commitment from the Government, statutory, third sector and community organisations, to implementing the plan and investing in this work, to ensure that these and other projects can be sustainable and foster a real contribution to the global movement for change towards ending FGM in a generation.