It is estimated that 53,000 girls and women born elsewhere but living in Australia have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) during their lifetime*.
For over 25 years, Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has been working in the fight to eliminate FGM/C, working beside women who have themselves experienced the illegal practice.
“We really want to shout it from the mountain tops – no more female genital circumcision!” said Dipti Zachariah, Multicultural Health Services team leader.
“Our girls are precious. This week we celebrate International Women’s Day and it serves as a loud reminder for us as governments, decision makers, communities and individuals to be accountable and to make this world an equal place for all – make it safe for women and children to live life to the fullest!”
Dr Ngatho Mugo, community education officer with the NSW Education program on FGM/C and Bilingual community educators have been instrumental in raising awareness in the hopes of ending this harmful cultural practice in western Sydney and NSW through health promotion and early intervention.
To ensure at risk and affected women are best supported, the Multicultural Health team are always looking at ways to improve and best serve their community.
“We are currently assessing existing needs and looking at redesigning our program,” Ngatho said.
To do this effectively, we need to hear directly from the local western Sydney community what’s working and what’s not. We have created two surveys: one for community members aged 18+ from high risk practising communities and one aimed at those who support women, girls and families from FGM/C practising communities.
“One voice can make a big difference; so please spare five minutes to take the survey relevant to you and ‘make your voice heard’.”
Ngatho said this formative research is first of its kind in NSW and aims to not only reflect the communities we serve but endeavours to bring authenticity and serve real change in the community.
In late February, Ngatho and the WSLHD Multicultural Health Services team also hosted two International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation events with the Indonesian and Sudanese communities.
Over 60 women and some men attended the events held on February 22 at Punchbowl Community Centre and on February 23 at Max Webber Library Function Centre in Blacktown which explored mental health and wellbeing.
“Events included discussion around health implications on women and girls, intimate family relationships, first aid mental health and family harmony,” Ngatho said.
“The Punchbowl event was even attended by the general consulate of Indonesia and his wife. These community events are essential to continue to raise awareness.”
* According to the 2017 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Make your voice heard survey:
For: Community members aged 18 and above, from high risk practising communities in NSW
For: Service providers, community health and allied health workers and religious and community leaders who support women, girls and families from FGM/C practising communities in NSW
If you are concerned about the safety of a female baby, a girl or women being at risk of having FGM done to them in NSW or being taken out of NSW or Australia for this purpose, please contact:
NSW Police – Call: 000
Child Protection Helpline – Call: 132 111
NSW FGM Program/ Multicultural Health – Call: (02) 9840 3877 | Email: WSLHD-FGMEducationProgram@health.nsw.gov.au