Cultural barriers

MShep2 (2010)Pregnant African Woman (license purchased from istockphoto.com)Responding appropriately to girls considered at risk of FGM can be difficult due to the stark cultural differences; families may genuinely believe that FGM is an act of love towards their children, and to not do so would be considered irresponsible within certain communities. Parents undergo considerable pressure to undertake this procedure and this can be deeply ingrained within families’ beliefs. 34

Reluctance has been reported to disclose information about FGM to health professionals, due to a fear of being judged by someone who believes that the practice is wrong.

“They fear that if they tell the midwife…that they will not understand our culture and tradition and think that we are illiterate or have bad traditions” 10n

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The midwife must understand her own attitudes towards the practice, as inappropriate reactions can result in a cross-cultural barrier and can prevent behaviour change. When the midwife is fully informed of the practice, its motives and cultural background, they are more equipped to care for these women in a non-judgmental manner during pregnancy and labour. It is important to understand but not to condone the practice, and in turn midwives can provide education to these women of the negative consequences of FGM to promote change. 45

Next topic: Talking about FGM