Building Bridges between sectors

Concerted Strategies for fighting female genital mutilation” - GAMS Belgium, INTACT asbl

The “Concerted Strategies for fighting female genital mutilation” represent a multisectoral framework that was created in 2009 in coordination between GAMS Belgium and INTACT asbl to improve the quality and coordination of services and policies in Belgium. In 2008, awareness was raised about the multiplicity of actors involved and the considerable amount of initiatives taken to combat FGM. From there, the need arose to increase the quality of interventions and multi-stakeholder dialogue.

The Concerted Strategies for fighting female genital mutilation are a collective process involving actors from various sectors concerned by FGM (health-care professionals, politicians, target groups, organisations in the field). Together, they participate in workshops and networking days to exchange ideas and thoughts on how to create a common reference framework for analysis and action, and, ultimately, conduct a situational analysis and set up an operating plan. This led, among other things, to the inclusion of FGM in the broader National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls in Belgium.

The Concerted Strategies also produced a Protection Toolkit for professionals and other individuals, which collects various information, prevention and protection resources Risk Tree scale, flyers, Stop FGM passport, prevalence study, medical certificate, engagement certificate commitment, and a world prevalence map) on FGM.

“The Dutch Chain Approach” - Pharos, FSAN, THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch Chain Approach is a multi-sectoral model that the Dutch government introduced in 2009, in cooperation with Pharos and FSAN. It is led by the Ministry of Health and foresees a chain of prevention, care, law enforcement and education – especially through the engagement of the indispensable key persons belonging to the affected communities –. The Dutch prevention policy focuses on awareness and education, early detection and risk assessment. Different organizations and groups play a part in this prevention policy.

An important component is represented by the Youth Health Care professionals (visiting children between 0-18 years old), who are trained to do FGM risk assessments and discuss FGM with parents and to educate them about the medical risks and laws, including through disseminating the document ‘Statement opposing female circumcision’ (a statement developed by the Ministry of Health for parents originating from risk countries who plan to go on holiday to their country of origin).

Midwives play also a crucial role in FGM prevention and detection with pregnant women and have trained FGM focal points.

Moreover, other fundamental actors of the Chain Approach are the 110 “key persons”, who are community representatives trained to discuss FGM with and within risk communities and are organized in a national network which has district/municipality focal points. Key persons are indispensable for FGM prevention, provision of information and play a supportive role in providing women with the care they need. A core group of key persons is annually trained by FSAN and Pharos. The centrality of community engagement in the Dutch system goes so far that there are also 4 national FGM Ambassadors officially nominated by the Ministry of Health among the 4 more represented FGM-affected communities in the Netherlands (Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria). Key persons are also in close connection with the Dutch Community Health Services, that cooperate with communities to spread health information and services.

“Finnish FGM Network" - FLHR (Finnish League of Human Rights), FINLAND

The FLHR founded in 2016 a cross-sectoral national FGM network, consisting of 20 major actors working in different sectors in society relevant in preventing FGM, at national and local level, including institutional stakeholders, professional networks, civil society and community-led organisations. Institutional members include national authorities such as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the National Institute of Health and Welfare, the Finnish Immigration Service, the National Police Board and Ombudsman for Children, as well as the immigration units of the cities of Helsinki and Espoo. In addition, different professional and civil society associations participate, such as the Federation of Finnish Midwives, the Finnish Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Family Federation of Finland, Save the Children and the Finnish Red Cross. Community-led organisations involved include the Iraqi Women’s Association and the Finnish Somali Network.

The aims of the network are to create informal dialogue between different sectors in society to: ensure the coordinated implementation of preventive measures; ensure that effective care and protection are provided to those who have undergone FGM; increase knowledge about different aspects of FGM and the challenges related to it in Finland.

The FGM Network meets twice a year to discuss about different topics with diversified guest speakers bringing their sectoral perspective for a collective reflection. It provides a forum for informal discussions around the subject matter as well as a possibility to bring up a topical challenge one has faced recently in her/his work.

In addition to spreading information and stimulating dialogue, the Finnish FGM Network is an effective form of advocacy, as it is possible to bring concrete examples and information from the grassroot level to the authorities’ knowledge and push them to fulfill their duties to tackle FGM more effectively.

“Academic Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy” (ANSER) - ICRH

GLOBAL (Belgium, UK, Kenya, South Africa)

The “Academic Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy” (ANSER) was launched by the ICRH at Ghent University in November 2016. It aims to become a global resource for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) policy research, education and service delivery. It established an international platform for research on SRHR policy related topics; by developing a portfolio of education and training programmes on SRHR policy; and by fostering interaction between SRHR researchers and policy makers.

The ANSER Network is open for all research institutes working in the field of SRHR policy research. An annual meeting is organised among all members in order to ensure proper planning and coordination. For more information on current members of ANSER, see here.

ANSER’s thematic priorities include:

  • Abortion, contraception and family planning
  • SRHR monitoring and evaluation
  • Adolescent SRHR
  • Sexual health, including sexual wellbeing, sexual identity, gender identity
  • Gender, rights, and interpersonal violence (including harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and early/forced marriage)

For instance, ANSER is working on a policy brief regarding medicalization of FGM as well as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on this subject, for which ICRH is collaborating with the University of Nairobi’s ACCAF Centre, the Foundation of Professional Development of South Africa, the University of Antwerp and Coventry University in the UK, all members of ANSER. These universities and research centres are equally developing joint research proposals on the topics of FGM and early marriage.