Addressing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Scotland: A soft systems approach

Inyang, Elizabeth Mayen (2024) Addressing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Scotland: A soft systems approach. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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FGM/C is an important issue which could have life changing implications for girls and families. In the UK, strategies aimed to address FGM/C have provided a necessary service to women affected by it, but they have also been seen to inadvertently stigmatise affected communities, causing suffering to families unjustly accused of FGM and loss of trust between communities and service providers. Scottish Policy calls for a greater involvement of affected communities in shaping and leading measures to prevent FGM/C, however community members have stated that they have been consulted in a ‘tokenistic’ fashion.

While literature exists exploring the experiences of women and young people in affected communities in Scotland, as well as multiagency guidance issued by the Scottish government to direct statutory agency response to FGM/C, there remains a need for approaches which bring together perspectives from all the various bodies through which FGM/C is addressed in Scotland. This would bridge these institutions, approaching the situation as a ‘whole entity’, embracing its complexity and involving its stakeholders in a structured way, to support a more integrated response to improving the situation.

This thesis applies Soft Systems methodology (SSM), a systems approach designed for investigating complex social situations in which there are multiple, and potentially conflicting perspectives on an issue among its various stakeholders.

It used this methodology to build a contextual understanding of the situation in Scotland, and with stakeholders to find ways to improve it. Accordingly, its objectives were to clarify who was involved in addressing this issue in Scotland, what their roles, perspectives, priorities, and challenges were; then based on the foregoing, to define ways in which the situation could be improved together with the stakeholders involved.

The research recruited 23 participants, from the 3rd sector (Community groups and Non-Governmental Organisations NGOs) as well as from the statutory sector (Health care, Social work, Police, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration SCRA, and Education). The sample was based on previous Scottish government consultations on FGM/C, and participant snowballing. Data was collected using semi structured interviews and seven workshops in total. SSM models of purposeful activity in addressing FGM/C in Scotland were created by the researcher to structure the situation, and used in workshops to co-produce with stakeholders defined ways in which the situation of addressing FGM/C in Scotland could be improved.

The study has produced a ‘rich picture’ of the key issues in this complex situation. Key roles included provision of education and awareness raising, wellbeing and support, health care, child protection, case investigation and legal decision making. Ten systems of purposeful activity were identified in addressing FGM/C in Scotland, including to make services more accessible to affected communities; to build knowledge and understanding of FGM/C in services; and to provide support to vulnerable women and girls affected by FGM/C. Key challenges identified included stakeholders working in their own ‘silos’, and a lack of knowledge and understanding of the issue in services. The key ways to improve the situation were shown to be increasing collaboration across stakeholder groups, and creating a standardised framework for community engagement and service training.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
Supervisor's Name: Mitchell, Professor Kirstin, Moore, Professor Laurence and Elsenbroich, Dr. Corinna
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84413
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2024 14:04
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2024 13:51
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84413

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