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A new app to tackle FGM

Researchers from the Centre for Communities and Social Justice (CCSJ) at Coventry University have created a new app, endorsed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), to help protect young girls and women from female genital mutilation (FGM).

Funded by donations from the Pamela Barlow, Eleanor Rathbone and 1970 Charitable Trusts, the free to use app called ‘Petals’ is the first of its kind to be developed in the UK and was demonstrated at a special launch events in London and Coventry in July 2015. Research and development of the 'Petals' app was led by Professor Hazel Barrett and her team.

Female genital mutilation, which is sometimes called female genital cutting, female circumcision or sunna refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but is a growing problem across the country.

Coventry City Council has been working with health professionals, members of affected communities and other stakeholders on a formal pledge to end the practice within the city and its surrounding areas. It is the first and only local government authority to take an integrated approach to tackling FGM and a full council motion to condemn the practice has been supported.

The app, which works across most smartphones, tablets and laptops via an internet browser, is aimed primarily at young girls living in affected communities and at risk from FGM. But it can also be used as an educational tool to teach young people and others the facts and realities of FGM. 

With the school summer holidays approaching, the app’s launch is timely as this is the point in the year when girls at risk may be sent to their heritage countries for the procedure to be carried out or cut here in the UK. Out of contact from their teachers and classmates for several weeks, by the time they return to school the outward signs that they have suffered FGM may be less apparent.