Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) states that an expected 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa. The types of cutting vary depending on the individual’s society or location, with four different types presently being practised. The Horn of Africa comprises Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and WHO has listed the following four countries in order of prevalence of FGM practice, with Somalia at 98%, followed by Ethiopia at 92%, Djibouti at 93% and Eritrea at 89% of the female population. In addition to efforts being made to eradicate FGM by WHO, Non-governmental organisations, governments and women organisations, there is also a demand from those who have already undergone this procedure, whether they are in Africa or elsewhere in the world for help with the biopsychosocial consequences of FGM.
Method: This paper presents the findings of a mixed-method study on the views of a group of vulnerable migrant women with FGM, as well as healthcare practitioners, who consider that there is an unmet demand for better interculturally sensitive healthcare in their adopted country – Germany. The mixed method study comprised the participation of 48 female volunteers over 18 years of age, recruited with the help of Somali social workers. Using the Metaplan and a quantitative questionnaire, five workshops were conducted in the German towns of Fulda (N=16), Rathenau (N=9), Kassel (N=13) and Berlin (N=10).
Results: The investigation in Germany was conducted as part of MyHealth, which was a larger European project aimed at improving the healthcare access of vulnerable migrants and refugees (women and unaccompanied minors) newly arrived in Europe, by developing and implementing models based on information gained from a European multidisciplinary Learning Alliance. The overall data gathered revealed a high demand for information and attention to the issue of FGM by both the participants and healthcare professionals. The interaction during data gathering is also suggested a transfer of knowledge between the researchers and the participants, with the result that participants felt they had been heard and were then able to engage with the German healthcare system.
Discussion: The study highlights the fact that the provision of healthcare in the host country can be improved by providing healthcare workers with intercultural communication skills, tools and cultural awareness training approaches. Moreover, these types of interventions could be adapted to help other vulnerable groups in different healthcare systems worldwide, particularly women’s issues such as postnatal depression, FGM and menopause.