Girl protection next step

The Shepparton Ethnic Council and other key organisations met on Thursday last week to discuss the next step in protecting girls from female genital mutilation. The morning tea included an invitation to the public to come along and learn more about female genital mutilation and was attended by Victoria police, Goulburn Valley Health, Gateway Health and mental health teams.

Ethnic Council meeting maps out way forward to prevent female genital mutilation

Shepparton Ethnic Council project officer Betul Tuna said they had completed stage one of their project. “We’ve spoken about what we’ve done so far and gotten some feedback,’’ Ms Tuna said. ‘‘Now we’ve entered stage two: where do we go from here?”

Ms Tuna said the purpose of the meeting was to open up a public forum to community members who had concerns about female genital mutilation after reading a story in The News on July 8 that talked about the Shepparton Ethnic Council’s project. “We said, ‘okay, let’s give opportunity for people to come in and ask us questions to learn more about it and give us feedback in their opinions and suggestions about where to go from here’,” she said.

Our core focus is protection, how do we protect girls from being cut.

Ms Tuna said female genital mutilation was not part of any religion, but it was a practice that occurred in different cultures across the world and endangered girls. She said the project had three stages.

“Our main objective was always to protect and prevent female genital mutilation from happening but alongside this we have to support women who have been affected and young girls who have been affected by female genital mutilation,’’ she said. Ms Tuna said they had to think about how to work with professionals, how to identify risks and start a conversation around policy change and mandatory reporting.

Gateway Health consultant continence nurse Janet Bartolic from Wangaratta said often people in health care professions were not aware that female genital mutilation was a form of child abuse and needed to be reported. Ms Bartolic said she enjoyed coming along to the meeting and had gained valuable information in the past from similar discussions that she had included in a manual she wrote.

Although the manual was not completely focused on female genital mutilation, Ms Bartolic believed it was important to include information on the practice, so people could be well informed.

“The message needs to get out there,” she said. We’re tackling (female genital mutilation) from every angle we possibly can,” Ms Tuna said. “We’ve utilised everyone in our region to work on this.”



Article and image courtesy Shepparton News



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