Mercy Health releases its first report on FGM/C

A new Mercy Health report highlights the impact of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) on a group of Australian women who were born overseas. Mercy Health has provided support, counselling and advice to women who have experienced FGM/C for the past 16 years. And during the past 12 months, the health provider has conducted a project to explore young women's experiences in accessing support relating to FGM/C. The project was funded through the FGM Support Grant from the Federal Government.

Supporting young women who have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting project report is based on interviews with 12 African-born women, aged 18 to 25, who discuss FGM/C, their knowledge and expectations from health support services.

Mercy Health Multicultural Services Manager Natalija Nesvadba said while there was no evidence that FGM/C was happening in Australia, support was needed for women who had experienced the practice overseas and were now living in Australia. She said the aim of the project was to determine ways to develop, improve and deliver support services for young women who had experienced FGM/C and have lived in Australia for a significant part of their lives.

"This project has given us an opportunity to explore the needs of young women who have experienced FGM/C and identify a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to provide appropriate support to this group of women.'' Ms Nesvadba said.

Key findings from the study:

- The young women who participated in the project experienced a lack of awareness and understanding of services that may be available to them.

- They expressed an expectation that general practitioners (GPs) and other health professionals will offer support when required.

- Access to appropriate, relevant information about FGM/C and supports available was noted by participants as a challenge. They recommended delivering information in a variety of modes including online and through information sessions.

- Participants have identified a number of features that would be important to them if they were to access services and support. Apart from practical features such as hours of operation and location, the participants highlighted the need for person-centred, culturally responsive care; access to bi-cultural workers; and emphasis on privacy, confidentiality and trust.

The World Health Organisation defines FGM/C as procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and has no health benefits, causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences.

To view the project report, go to mercyhealth.com.au/au/research/Pages/Research%20Reports.aspx.

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