Four diverse women holding each others wrists in a circle

Researching Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Intervention Programmes Linked to African Communities in the EU (REPLACE 2)


European Commission DAPHNE III

Total value of project


Project team

Professor Hazel Barrett, Professor Katherine Brown, Yussif Alhassan


Universiteit Gent, Belgium; Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD), UK; Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands (FSAN), Netherlands; Centro Studie Iniziative Europeo (CESIE), Italy; Associacão para o Planeamento da Familia (APA), Portugal; Gabinet d'Estudis Socials (GES), Spain

Duration of project

March 2013 - October 2015

EC DAPHNE logo    European Commission logo

Project overview

The REPLACE 2 project followed on from the Daphne-funded REPLACE project which investigated the reasons why FGM persists in the EU despite years of campaigining to end the illegal practice, in order to produce a behavioural change model or 'toolkit' that could be applied to ending FGM in the EU. REPLACE 2 implemented and evaluated the REPLACE Toolkit and REPLACE Community-Based Behaviour Change Framework and Toolkit for ending FGM amongst the African diaspora. This was done using the Somali and Sudanese communities in the UK and Netherlands that were involved in the REPLACE project and also by rolling out to different diasporic African  groups in Italy (Eritrean and Ethiopian), Spain (Gambian and Senegalese) and Portugal (Guinea Bissau). The Toolkit and framework were then revised and updated enabling it to be used as a self-sustaining tool for implementing community-based behaviour change approaches to ending FGM across the EU and beyond.

REPLACE 2 recognised that the practice of FGM occurs within a wider socio-cultural context and the behaviour and decisions of others are critical in relation to the outcome of whether or not FGM is carried out. REPLACE 2 also recognises that some individuals are in less powerful or influential positions than others, and therefore are unable to implement certain behaviours that will lead to the abandonment of FGM. REPLACE 2 has therefore adopted relevant elements from both individually focused behaviour change theories and the theories that concentrate on the role of society to tackle the social norm of FGM to implement and evaluate an innovative way to tackle FGM, called the REPLACE Approach.

The REPLACE Approach is a bottom-up approach that empowers communities and puts them at the centre of social norm transformation using behavioural change theory. The REPLACE Approach comprises a Cyclic Framework for Social Norm Transformation having five elements that represent the flow of motivation and behaviour change within a community, stressing the important role played by community leaders, influential people and peer group champions in achieving social norm transformation.

The REPLACE Approach is aimed at those within FGM affected communities or those working with these communities, whose goal is to end FGM in the EU. It is also relevant to policy makers who aim to end FGM; since the success of the REPLACE Approach is enhanced by political support.

Project objectives

REPLACE 2 aims:

  • To implement and evaluate the REPLACE  community-based behaviour change intervention for ending FGM with practising communities in the EU;
  • To evaluate the experience of using the community-based participatory methodological approach and the behaviour change framework within the toolkit, amongst those involved;
  • To develop an index of community readiness to end FGM; 
  • To engage communities in devising strategies and interventions for change and to evaluate their effectiveness;
  • To build sustainability of the toolkit through knowledge transfer and capacity building with a range of partners and communities in the EU.
  • In the UK, results from the REPLACE 2 project  have been implemented by Coventry City Council (CCC) who became the first local authority in the UK to support a full council motion to condemn the practice of FGM with Barrett’s research used as evidence. The REPLACE research findings also underpin training of safeguarders in a number of English Local Authority Areas, including Coventry, Sandwell and Dudley, Birmingham, Southwark, and Berkshire.

    At the EU level, findings from the REPLACE 2 Project provided evidence that FGM is not an individual decision made by women, as previously assumed, but was a community-led decision often supported and influenced by men. Evidence from the project informed the development of an adaptable toolkit for advocacy groups enabling communities themselves to take action ( and > Project evaluation demonstrated that the approach positively impacted on attitudes and practices concerning the ending of FGM. As a consequence of this validation, the research approach and findings are now widely used in Europe and have directly supported widespread change. For example in the Netherlands, the Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands (FSAN) which works towards ending all forms of FGM uses REPLACE 2. They have used the REPLACE Approsch to train 31 new facilitators from different countries mainly from Africa, Iraq-Kurdish and Yemen. They also detail that the research is currently utilised by 75 current facilitators that provide upgrading courses for ending FGM.

    In relation to impact in the global south, the REPLACE Approach has been used to change practitioner responses to SGBV, in particular focussing on the significant enhancement of community engagement. In Uganda, Irise International highlights that they have implemented the REPLACE Approach in their work on  tackling Menstrual Hygiene Management of girls. In doing so, this helps to protect them from stigma and discrimination and to enable them to attend school during menstruation. While Irise operate at the international level, the learning from the impact in the global south has resulted in Irise also implementing the REPLACE Approach in the UK. In this case, Iris has adopted elements of the model to their work to end period shame in the UK, in particular, a two year project funded by the prestigious Act for Change Fund, part of a joint funding venture by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Big Lottery Fund. Additionally, World Vision International is using the approach in its global ‘Celebrating Families’ programme and has revised its theory of change for the programme using REPLACE research outcomes as its foundation.

  • Project website:

    Barrett, H.R., Brown, K., Alhassan, Y. et al. Transforming social norms to end FGM in the EU: an evaluation of the REPLACE Approach. Reprod Health 17, 40 (2020). 

    Barrett, H, Browne, K, Alhassan, Y & Beecham, D, (2015) The REPLACE Approach: supporting Communities to end FGM in the EU. A Toolkit. Pp 150. Coventry University. ISBN: 9781846000621.    

    Barrett, H, Browne, K, Alhassan, Y & Beecham, D, (2015) The REPLACE Approach: supporting Communities to end FGM in the EU. Community Handbook. Pp 123. Coventry University. ISBN: 9781846000638.

    Barrett, H (2017) Engaging Communities to implement behaviour change to end FGM in the EU: Lessons from the REPLACE Project. Pp. 23-28. In: Researching Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Leye, E & Coene, G (Eds) MAP-FGM Project, Vubpress Brussels University Press, Brussels. ISBN: 978 90 5718 7070

    Barrett, H (2017) Working with African Communities in the EU to end FGM: The REPLACE Approach. Pp. 285-292. In: Socio-cultural and legal aspects of FGM/C: transnational experiences of prevention and protection. Thrill, M (Ed). MAP-FGM Project. Dykinson S.L, Madrid. ISBN: 978-84-9148-385-4

    Glover, J, Liebling, H, Barrett, H & Goodman, S (2018) Persistence and resistance of Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) perpetuated against girls in Africa and Asia. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 19 (2) 44-64.

    Glover, J, Liebling, H, Barrett, H & Goodman, S (2017) ‘The psychological and social impact of female genital mutilation: a holistic conceptual framework.’ Journal of International Studies, 10(2) 219-238.

    Alhassan, Y, Barrett, H, Brown, K & Kwah, K (2016) Belief systems enforcing female genital mutilation in Europe. International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, 9 (1), 29-40.

    Barrett, H R (2014), Female Genital Cutting: crossing borders. Geography, 99 (1), 20-27.

    Various conferences and policy forums including:

    The Girl Summit, 2014, London.

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