Last December, we shared with you that AHA Foundation had won a 3-year federal grant from the Department of Justice to provide training about female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Chicago North Side (read more here). In March, Oluwadamilola Alabi and Lisa Brett, the Chicago program's coordinator and AHA's Senior Consultant respectively, provided our first in-person anti-FGM/C trainings of 2022.
Below, we share Oluwadamilola's account of the training, some photos from the sessions, and some quotes from attendees. It is clear from these quotes that FGM/C is a misunderstood problem in Chicago North Side, as it is throughout the U.S. more broadly. AHA is proud to have raised the awareness of these professionals so that they can better serve and protect women and girls in their community. With an estimated 3,400 women and girls at risk of FGM/C in Chicago North Side, our work has only just begun, and we will continue to fight on the ground, as well as legislatively, to protect them.
I co-facilitated the training at Heartland Health Center with Lisa Brett on the 22nd and 23rd of March to raise awareness to end FGM/C in Chicago North Side. The first day of training focused on community outreach staff and midwives and the second day focused on medical providers and management staff.
The sessions went well because the participants took ownership of the training by engaging in the materials, asking questions and offering ideas. According to our poll, 100% of the participants would recommend the training to their co-workers. The biggest challenge about FGM/C in the U.S. is that a lot of people do not know what it is, as evidenced by our poll showing that 45% of the training participants were not aware that FGM/C happens in the United States.
We are planning to extend this training to social workers, child protective services, Chicago Police Department and school-based staff such as teachers and nurses over the course of the grant period. Our next training on May 5th will be focused on mental health providers and will be co-led by Joanna Vergoth, a renowned psychologist who specializes in FGM/C.
I am so excited to be moving forward with this program to protect women and girls in the community from this awful practice, and can't wait for May 5th. Every training we run is a step towards eliminating FGM/C in the U.S. completely. Onwards!
I have been examining women for 25 years but not once have I thought to screen for FGM/C.
I am shocked to see my country on the list, I never knew that some communities in Iraq practice FGM/C.
I think it is unfair that we leave survivors to fight the cause by themselves, we should be the ones advocating so we don't put them in the situation where they are re-traumatized by always sharing their experience.
Having had this training, I feel responsible to go out and take responsibility to help stop FGM/C.
It is important that we integrate asking about FGM/C into our health system, not only for prevention, but also to provide survivors with a holistic plan of care.
I can't believe that this many girls are at risk in the community where I am a school counselor. I am happy to be educated about the prevalence of FGM/C, so I can be a part of fighting to eradicate it.
I had no prior knowledge about FGM/C, but after the training I feel equipped to act.