A study reveals cases of discrimination against women from countries where FGM is practiced

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A study of the Wassu-UAB Foundation shows that there are experiences of discrimination in the Spanish hospital and educational environment towards migrant women with origins in countries where FGM (female genital mutilation) is practiced.


The Wassu-UAB Foundation (WF) has released the main conclusions of the study framed in the project "Attention without Stigmatization: Analysis of discriminatory factors in the preventive intervention of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Spain" funded by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration (MISSM) and co-financed by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) of the European Union.

The prevention of FGM and the consequences it has for the health of girls and women, as well as the attention to the needs of those who have already suffered it, are some of the greatest challenges of intercultural primary care. Not only do public policies and the legal area interact in its approach, but also the knowledge and discourses that society, in general, has regarding practice.

The study "Attention without stigmatization: Analysis of discriminatory factors in the preventive intervention of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Spain" (Wassu-UAB Foundation, 2020) compiles inclusive experiences concerning the preventive approach to FGM and in the same way, identifies those discriminatory factors that intervene in the approach and preventive attention of the practice. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the social cohesion and integration of migrant communities, especially those from Sub-Saharan Africa, as they are the most affected by this harmful traditional practice.

To achieve this, 18 in-depth interviews have been carried out with primary care professionals and members of migrant communities, with origins in different countries where FGM is practiced. Likewise, surveys have been carried out on each group, where a total of 161 people have participated and, in this way, relate the qualitative analysis with the quantitative one.

With the hashtag #AtenciónSinEstigmatización, WF published a series of videos, among which three stand out collecting testimonies from participants in the research. The firsts ones relate experiences of discrimination in the hospital and educational environment. A young woman (24) from a Gambian family can be heard stating: “[…] prejudices are still deeply rooted. They have seen that a black family came and the professional, with their prejudices, has treated us as if we were stupid or inferior. Even the way of addressing, the way of speaking, the way of treating us… it was like, well, it is not necessary, we are not stupid”.

"[In the case of the approach to FGM] yes, there is stigmatization, because they think that the people who practice it, or the victims, come from very beastly ethnic groups, very brutal, very savage. They even consider you savage. Do you know? Because that is savage. […] I find it very interesting to be able to work on it and fight against this stigmatization, especially with the Sub-Saharan population, the women who have suffered it, and those who are suffering it", says a wolof nurse from Senegal. Her testimony is part of the second video, focused on the approach to FGM.

The professionals had also space to make their visions known. “We have white sanitation for white people. So, we don't have translators in primary school, or specialty, not even in the hospital. That is, there are no translations. With which, people are treated as ignorant because they do not understand you", says a social worker from the Valencian Community.

Identifying discriminatory practices related to social and health care at a general level and, in particular FGM, “involves an exercise of approaching, of learning about different circumstances, experiences, particularities, and needs. It also implies listening to the voices of professionals, the limitations of their work, and demands for improvements”, states the WF research team.

As the results presented show, the relationship between health professionals and migrant families involves difficulties, since, to establish adequate communication, both must overcome the cultural and linguistic differences that limit the understanding of the other's cosmology. The lack of knowledge and resources, the healthcare pressure, or the economic cuts in healthcare, are some of the reasons that intervene in the lack of attention to diversity and are some of the main concerns that emerged in the interviews with migrants and professionals. For these reasons, it is necessary to prioritize the training of professionals, both in intercultural competencies and in specific matters of FGM.

The role of communication professionals

In the same line as the previous work, WF has published a "Guide for a non-stigmatizing language in the media: Community Proposal", an initiative financed by Obra Social “La Caixa” and the Departament de Treball, Afers Socials i Famílies de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

In addition to FGM, the guide extends to other areas such as racial discrimination, addressing issues related to migration, and the representation of young people, among others. “The families we work with have a universe of difficulties to face daily. The prevention of this practice cannot be addressed without talking about culture, identity, social inclusion, or family finances, but also discrimination, stigmatization, and violence. FGM is one more concern, not always a priority. As a team, we felt that we could not only be receivers of these other problems and that is why we present this publication”, says the WF team.

This work collects some of the recommendations and guidelines from existing resources but brings the voices of those on the other side of the audience. The reflections and proposals include the analysis of the comments of project participants, whose visions are rescued through quotes, and also have the review of journalists and communication professionals.