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The Next Government Must Commit To Stopping Female Genital Mutilation

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In the run up to the General Election political campaigners are pounding the pavements pushing their party’s pamphlets through voters’ doors.

Promises about tax, the NHS and improvements to the education system are likely to get a mention on the leaflets, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see anything about female genital mutilation (FGM), or other harmful traditional practices, such as breast ironing.

These issues rarely grab the headlines, so it’s not surprising politicians do not prioritise them when trying to win their place in Parliament.

But when they take their seats on the green benches MPs must not ignore this serious form of child sexual abuse.

Organisations across the world have pledged to end FGM within a generation and we want the future Government to make this a reality.

FGM is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this terrible practice.

Statistics from the NHS show that although FGM is a hidden problem, it affects thousands of women and girls.

We believe the best way of preventing the practice is by working with girls and their families, raising awareness in schools and communities and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM and know how to report it.

Barnardo’s is leading the way in tackling the problem through innovative social work with girls and their families, and our training and education programmes at the National FGM Centre, run in conjunction with the Local Government Association.

Working in six pilot sites across England we support girls who are at risk of FGM, as well as those who have undergone the procedure.

Our specially trained social workers are embedded in local authorities to help the girls and their families.

And we run interactive training programmes to help professionals like social workers, teachers and doctors, realise when a girl is at risk and how to report this to the police.

The National FGM Centre has shone a light on this secret form of abuse and, because of its work, we have seen a steady increase in the number of FGM referrals to children’s services in the pilot site areas.

We want the next Government to commit to helping us achieve our goal of ending FGM within 15 years.

We also need them to end other hidden forms of child abuse, including those linked to faith or belief, and breast ironing or flattening.

They must pledge to protect children from concealed crimes such as these, so they can have the opportunity and right to live happy and healthy lives.