The first clinic to treat both the psychological and physical effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has opened in Wales. The Cardiff-based service is called the Women’s Wellbeing Clinic, and it is run by midwives. The clinic offers individualized psycho-sexual counseling, interpretation services, and community advocacy support for survivors.
According to the charity Welsh Women’s Aid, Welsh data regarding FGM is difficult to come by. It is estimated that around 2,000 women in the country are survivors of FGM, while 144,000 women in England and Wales are at risk of FGM. The Women’s Wellbeing Clinic will be open to these survivors and may be the first time they’ve had access to specialized support after enduring the illegal practice.
FGM, sometimes called “cutting,” is classified by the World Health Organization as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
FGM has no medical benefits and has a series of risks for women, including the buildup of scar tissue and even loss of their life or their child’s life during pregnancy or birth.
In recent years, the practice has gained attention in Wales. In 2017, the Welsh Education Secretary, Kristy Williams, sent a letter out to schools regarding the unacceptability of FGM and the damage it causes. She particularly addressed schools and education hubs, stating that the awareness of the problem can truly make a difference.
Williams went on to say, “It is imperative we all recognize the warning signs of a child who might be at risk. Female Genital Mutilation is child abuse and a criminal offence. It cannot be justified as a cultural or religious practice and leaders of all main faiths have rightly spoken out against it.”
This clinic is a step in the right direction for better support of FGM survivors in Wales. Bawso, a Welsh charity organization who supported the creation of the Women’s Wellbeing Clinic, reported that they received 788 inquiries about FGM between 2014 and 2015.
Bawso‘s violence against women director Dr. Mwenya Chima reiterated the need for a specialized clinic in 2017, stating that she “worked with a survivor of FGM who wanted medical help as she was having problems. We tried to get her help from the clinic in Bristol, but there were delays because she was outside the area, so in the end it didn’t happen and she is still living with these problems now.”
Hopefully this new clinic will provide the necessary care for FGM survivors like this woman in Wales.
“This is a major step in the campaign to stop FGM in Wales and indeed across the UK, a campaign that the RCM has been at the forefront of,” said Helen Rogers, director for Wales in the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). “It is so important the women and girls who have been subjected to FGM, or fear they are at risk of FGM, have somewhere to go to where they can get the care, treatment and support they need.”
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