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FGM survivor joins Council to combat harmful practices

A Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) survivor has joined Waltham Forest Council as it becomes one of three pilot areas in the capital to step up efforts to tackle the illegal practice.



Waltham Forest resident Hibo Wardere was forced into being ‘cut’ in her native Somalia when she was just six years old. Despite the lasting effects resulting from the physical and emotional trauma she suffered, Hibo has dedicated her life to raising awareness and educating people about FGM – and wants to help establish Waltham Forest as a leader in the wider mission to bring about an end to the practice.



The prominent campaigner has joined the Council’s community safety department as an FGM Community Mediator within a newly-launched specialist team designed to combat violence against women and girls (VAWG).



Supported by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime as part of its Harmful Practices pilot project, Waltham Forest is one of only three places in London to have been awarded priority area funding to embark on new measures to help keep women and girls safe from harm.



Hibo said: “I passionately believe that increasing people’s knowledge and awareness of FGM are key to helping put a stop to it. But as well as taking steps to prevent the practice, it’s vital that organisations with the means to do so ensure the right kind of support is available to victims, because the psychological consequences of FGM are severe.



“As a proud Waltham Forest resident, I’m hugely encouraged by the Council’s proactive efforts to tackle this issue. Working in the new VAWG team, I believe there’s much we can do to educate different age groups and communities and better protect and support those at risk – and ultimately make a real difference to people’s lives.”



In her role as a community mediator, Hibo is responsible for engaging with communities in Waltham Forest to raise awareness of FGM – its legalities along with its psychological and physical impact.



This will include organising special classes in schools to teach young people about the issue and running workshops and information sessions across the borough – the most recent of which was an event for Somali men to learn more about the dangers associated with FGM. In addition, she will help the Council train officers how to identify risk.



The VAWG team also includes a specialist caseworker who works with potential victims and with survivors of FGM – and is further able to help those affected by offering high level psychological support.



Cllr Liaquat Ali MBE JP, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion, said: “Here in Waltham Forest we’ve been very clear for some time now that we will not bury our heads in the sand and pretend FGM is not an issue. We’re committed to tackling all strands of VAWG, protecting our residents and taking action against perpetrators.



“Having employees like Hibo, whose bravery, expertise and determination to succeed are clear for all to see, as well as several local organisations dedicated to supporting victims of violence, puts us in a fantastic position to carry out some really trail-blazing work as part of our ongoing efforts to bring about an end to harmful practices like FGM.”



The Council’s new VAWG team is also tasked with tackling domestic violence (DV), hate crime, sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation, forced marriage and honour-based violence.



It is offering specialist training to professionals in the borough to help them better understand VAWG and know how to go about reporting incidents should they encounter it. And, it is assisting other Council departments working in relevant service areas to review policies and procedures around harmful practices, assist in case management and ensure those involved are fully sighted and aware of risk/available interventions.



The team features a Council-funded VAWG police officer to develop and review best practice, legislation changes, deliver training, engage with frontline workers, and support victims of VAWG related crimes.



In addition, the Council funds six independent domestic violence advocates (IDVA) to work with the team and local partners to support DV victims and their families. This provision also includes a young person’s IDVA who works with children under 18 who are affected by DV.



To learn about the work of the Council’s community safety team visit www.walthamforest.gov.uk/community-safety.



Notes to editors

The Harmful Practices Pilot project is funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

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