Female genital mutilation has been a practice for so many communities for as long as we can remember but it has been banned in so many countries worldwide, however it still happens in some places.
An app has been launched to help people learn about the dangers, effects and how to get help for victims of the practice.
The app was created by researchers at the University of Coventry and is called “Petals”
Professor Hazel Barrett from Coventry University’s Centre for Communities and Social Justice, which created the app, said it was targeted at the closed communities where FGM can thrive.
Many girls may not know what FGM is until it is too late, and at the point when they are about to be subjected to it may be told that it is necessary for religious and cultural reasons.
The app is aimed both at them and their brothers and friends who, it is hoped, will use it to find out how to call for help if they or someone they know is at risk.
Boys are crucial, according to Prof Barrett. By catching them early it is hoped that they will grow up to become fathers who find it unacceptable to put their own daughters through FGM.
The app’s creators believe that one of the best ways to target youngsters of both sexes is via new technology. It’s a clever, modern way of tackling a primitive, barbaric practice.
The website has special features to enable it to be kept hidden from prying eyes. Shaking a smartphone makes the app disappear, it leaves no history in the browser if accessed on a computer and there are no pop-up windows, meaning it can be shut down quickly if needed.
“The first thing we had to think about when putting the app together was the safety of those using it,” Prof Barrett said. “We wanted to make sure that these young people could look at the app in privacy and secrecy.”
Users are given access to immediate help on the first page, with links to help groups. Information about what FGM is and why it is so damaging to those put through it is also available along with example scenarios, a glossary, and video testimonies from survivors.
To avoid scaring off girls from what are usually highly conservative communities, there are no gory photographs, no diagrams of genitalia, and even the phrase FGM has deliberately been kept out of the app’s name in favour of the less challenging, and more euphemistic, “Petals.”
And it uses a tiny amount of data – a key factor for teenagers.