Credit: SafeHands/Mohsen Zarei/2020

Partnering with teachers to eliminate female genital mutilation

The Zonta Club of London II partnered with SafeHands to support schools in Waltham Forest to strengthen how female genital mutilation (FGM) is taught in primary and secondary schools. A community in East London, Waltham Forest is one of the most diverse and multicultural areas in the United Kingdom and has a strong record of maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to FGM.

The project, End FGM Now: Teachers on the Frontline, aimed to enhance the capacity of London schools and teachers to feel supported and confident to safeguard girls at risk of FGM by:

  • Increasing the confidence of teachers and school staff to explore controversial and difficult issues that perpetuate FGM.
  • Applying a trainers package delivered by teachers, for teachers and replicated across London schools.
  • Convening breakthrough conversations that engage teachers and school staff to lead discussion into practical action against FGM.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact training of teachers and school staff has in supporting girls at risk and reporting concerns.

With a US$5,000 grant from Zonta International, SafeHands undertook activities to:

  • Understand teachers’ needs by:
    • Working with an advisory committee of headteacher, teachers, social worker and a community member.
    • Convening eight primary and secondary school headteachers to identify challenges and opportunities to address FGM in the classroom.
    • Recruiting two community leaders—who understood firsthand the capacity of Waltham Forest schools to address FGM—to manage the project.
  • Support teachers to safeguard against FGM by providing direct support to schools and delivering learning plans directly to teachers and pupils in line with the new national curriculum.
    • A user-friendly FGM curriculum was designed by educators and implemented for teachers to deliver in the classroom.
    • 112 teachers were trained to deliver off-the-shelf lesson plans that included individual and group activities and a list of helpful learning materials.
    • 1,440 students were reached through directly delivering the FGM curriculum to primary and secondary schools.
  • Galvanize community support. Nearly 50 community leaders and members met to discuss practical interventions to end FGM.

“Initially there was reluctance around teaching about FGM. We were concerned that it was a sensitive issue and would be treading on cultural boundaries,” said Sarah, a secondary school educator in Waltham Forest. “Teachers need training on how to deal with controversial issues and difficult topics. Some of my colleagues have not had the experience. They would find it difficult and would need training to feel confident within themselves and within their practice.”

Including teachers and students, there were 1,602 beneficiaries of the project. Approximately 75% (1,170) were girls from primary and secondary school.

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