Campaigner celebrates Newham school’s efforts to stamp out FGM

“Very impressed”: Alimatu Dimonekene

An east London school has been praised for its work to stamp out female genital mutilation.

Forest Gate Community school in Newham was singled out by an expert as a “beacon of excellence”. It had called in FGM survivor Alimatu Dimonekene to train teachers about the issue but she said it was already streets ahead of most other London schools.

Her comments come as campaigners warn the “cutting season” has started and girls are now at heightened risk of falling victim to the brutal practice.

Teachers at Forest Gate, a mixed comprehensive school, are told to watch out for signs students have suffered FGM. Children are also taught about it in assemblies and PSHE (personal, social and health education) lessons.

Ms Dimonekene said: “The safeguarding practices we ask schools to put in place are already in place at Forest Gate and they also even have their own additional practices.

“It is very pleasing to see that the teachers and in particularly the senior staff have taken this issue so seriously. I am very impressed and encouraged as a campaigner and also as a parent.”

Ms Dimonekene underwent FGM at 16 in Sierra Leone. Now 44, she is a leading campaigner against it and works for the health charity Manor Gardens.

Charlotte Whelan, deputy head of Forest Gate, said: “We took a view very early on that we were not going to be frightened to tackle FGM.

“Other schools have tended to shy away out of a fear of offending some cultures or communities. But FGM is illegal in this country, not to mention hugely damaging both physically and psychologically for young girls.

“The Government deserves praise for setting down very clear guidelines in May. All we have done is quickly put this practice rigorously in place.”

Around 130,000 women and girls living in the UK are estimated to have undergone FGM, which can involve cutting off the clitoris and sewing the vagina shut, leading to health problems and difficulties in childbirth.

Campaigner Hawa Sesay urged Londoners to be vigilant because the holidays are a prime time for girls to be taken abroad for FGM as they have time to recuperate before term starts in September. She almost bled to death when she was mutilated at 13.

The 43-year-old told the Hackney Gazette: “This is the cutting season… If you are a school teacher, a doctor or a social worker, a neighbour or a community leader we need to come together and open our eyes and our ears.

“We need more awareness because this is everybody’s business.”



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