A clinic in West London providing specialist support and health services to women and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation is facing imminent closure.
Ealing Council, the local authority for the clinic, announced it would withdraw funding from March 2017, citing pressure on its resources as the reason for the decision.
Dedicated to helping women dealing with the psychological and physical consequences of FGM, the Acton FGM Community Clinic has supported more than 1,000 women since it opened in 2007.
It provides counselling, healthcare support and de-infibulation procedures — the process of reversing the most extreme form of FGM (Type 3). Five hundred women have received the reversal surgery thanks to the Acton clinic.
"This clinic is vital for FGM victims,” said artist and FGM survivor Aida Silvestri. “It provides a great deal of support physically and emotionally by creating a safe environment for girls/women to talk about their problems and experiences while maintaining their anonymity. The clinic changes lives and saves lives."
Driven by an ethos to “never turn anyone away,” its impact has been lauded by healthcare professionals and anti-FGM organisations.
In 2011, the clinic received a Guardian Public Service Award for diversity and equality, and FORWARD (the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development) has described it as “an exceptionally warm and welcoming place."
Janet Fyle, a spokeswoman on FGM for the Royal College of Midwives, described the closure as “disgraceful” in the Evening Standard.
Seen as providing an exemplary service, the impact of the Acton FGM Community Clinic stretched beyond London. Its model was later replicated to create another centre in Bristol, after a large number of Bristol-based were found to be travelling to London to use the clinic.
Ealing Council have emphasised that they will continue to prioritise services to help survivors of FGM in the local area.
“We will continue to commission FGM awareness work in the borough to reach more people such as schools and community groups and signpost women to clinical support,” a spokesperson told the Guardian.
A 2016 study revealed that 16 girls report FGM every day in the UK, evidence that services to support survivors are wholly necessary.
Campaigners are therefore rallying to keep the clinic afloat. A petition to Save the Acton FGM Community Clinic has gained almost 20,000 signatures.
Click here to add your signature.