Sioban O’Brien Green attended the opening of a specialist Clinical Service for The Treatment of Female Genital Mutilation. Here she reflects on the important contributions from Comhlámh over the years on combating FGM.
Minister of State with Responsibility for Primary Care Mr Alex White TD opened the clinic on Wednesday 7th May 2014 in the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is recognised as a human rights violation of women and girls with grave health consequences (WHO 2008).
The 1992 Winter edition of Focus Magazine in Comhlámh’s in-house archive contained an article examining the practice of FGM in a number of African countries and the harmful effects of FGM on women and girls In 2001 a group of Comhlámh members, some of whom had worked and volunteered overseas in the area of health, formed the Health and Development Group.
The issue of FGM was one of the key areas of work and campaigning by the Group and in 2002 they published the first ever Irish booklet on the topic: “Understanding Female Genital Mutilation (also known as Female Circumcision)”.
In 2002 Comhlámh established the Irish Coalition Against FGM and the Coalition hosted seminar in 2004 entitled “FGM –Why is it relevant for Ireland”. In 2008 Comhlámh joined the National Steering Committee to develop and draft Ireland’s National Plan of Action to Address FGM. Other members of the multi-sector Committee included AkiDwA, the IFPA, Christian Aid, UNICEF and Cairde. Ireland’s Plan of Action was launched in November 2008 and contained five strategic headings: legal, asylum, health, community and development aid. The opening of the Service in the IPFA this month follows on from the health objectives and actions contained in Ireland’s National Plan of Action.
At the launch last week Comhlámh was praised for beginning the work on FGM in Ireland and the HSE and Minister White emphasised the collaborative and holistic approach needed to working on the issue of FGM. AkiDwA estimates that there are more than 3,780 women currently living in Ireland who have undergone FGM in their country of origin.
Speaking at the Service launch Dr Comfort Momoh MBE, FGM and Public Health Specialist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London stated that the journey to tackle FGM is really beginning now for Ireland and encouraged the clinic staff to be advocates for women and girls and to work together to eradicate the practice FGM globally.
The FGM Clinical Service is based in Dublin city centre and offers free high quality medical care and professional counselling. The Service can be accessed by a weekly four hour drop in clinic on Wednesdays. Appointments can also be made through a dedicated phone line (085 877 1342) or referrals from GPs, hospitals and other health providers are accepted. The Service is supported by the HSE National Social Inclusion Office and provided in collaboration with AkiDwA – the Migrant Women’s Network.