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Awareness campaign on female genital mutilation to be rolled out in Brent

PUBLISHED: 18:45 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 18:49 01 April 2014

Cllr Ann John has been battling to raise awareness since 1990s

Cllr Ann John has been battling to raise awareness since 1990s

Archant

An extensive awareness campaign on female genital mutilation (FGM) and violence against women will be rolled out in the borough.

An extensive awareness campaign on female genital mutilation (FGM) and violence against women will be rolled out in the borough.

The initiative is the result of a landmark report looking into the issues which was spearheaded by Cllr Ann John, former Labour leader of the council.

Awareness posters will be placed in public places, including GP surgeries and a United Nations sponsored day will take place in Brent on February 6 each year.

FGM which, is also called female circumcision, is believed to be a widespread problem in Brent, especially in the Somali community where the practice is well documented.

Cllr John said: “At the moment, not a lot is being done to flag this issue up in our communities.”

“People feel unable to talk about the issue. That is just what we want people to do, talk.”

She also hopes more teachers and health professionals will be trained in how to detect if a female is at risk of FGM or violence.

“People are frightened to speak about the problem so we aim to encourage them to do so by raising awareness, and providing trained ears for them to voice their concerns,” she said.

The 73-year-old, who represents the Stonebridge ward, has been battling for the issue to be taken up since 1993 when an unsuccessful motion to legalise FGM was brought before the town hall.

If it was granted families originating from Africa and Asia who want to carry out the practice in the UK would have been allowed to do so.

She told the Times she had been branded a druggy and “twisted mutilated bwana” for putting forward her own amendment to the motion in which she called FGM a “barbaric act” and denounced the need to practice such cultural traditions as ludicrous.

A former councillor even sent her a letter suggesting she gained more knowledge on African culture by sleeping with men from the continent.

In May, Cllr John will leave the political arena after more than 20 years.

She said she hopes the report will leave a lasting legacy.

“Brent is famed for having a culturally rich and diverse community which is great and should be celebrated,” she added.

“However, we need to make sure that we practices like FGM are eradicated.”

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