A graduate who created a charity that trains people to spot and support girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) is celebrating reaching a milestone.
Laney Holland graduated from the University of Northampton’s Midwifery programme in 2018, but even before receiving her degree certificate she had formed the organisation that represents a cause close to her heart.
Creating Equalz was created earlier that year and is a social enterprise dedicated to reducing race and gender inequalities.
Primarily, Creating Equalz was born of Laney’s drive to reduce the number of girls who undergo FGM, by delivering targeted training for health and care professionals and community members.
The aim is that these people will – based on up-to-the-minute evidence and research – use intelligence to better identify girls at risk and to more effectively intervene to stop FGM in its tracks.
Laney and the Creating Equalz team have now trained 500 people from all walks of life and professions across Northamptonshire and the East Midlands with one of their three categories of workshops.
Training can be at the bronze level (a shorter course that covers the top-line, need to know essentials), silver (a more in-depth session focusing on risk assessment) or gold (a full day session, bespoke to the organisation’s structure, policies and protocols).
Those trained so far include police officers, social workers, teachers, doctors and some of Laney’s fellow midwifery peers.
Laney explains: “FGM is one of the scourges in society and has for some time been a difficult beast to tackle for a number of reasons. It is a comparatively ‘invisible’ thing, can be surprisingly easy to miss and many people don’t want to talk about it or feel they are stopped from talking about it.
“Unfortunately some of these people can include midwives and doctors, so it’s of huge significance that Creating Equalz has been able to step up and make a difference by adding to their professional knowledge.
“But our work to eliminate FGM has to have a more grass roots impact, so we have been going into schools to train 12 – 14 year olds to become ‘FGM Community Mentors’, showing them how to handle situations where they think their friends might be at risk, how to escalate this properly and who to escalate their concerns to.
“We’ve done some great work with the Northamptonshire International Academy and will be taking this into other schools and sixth forms.”
For her work establishing Creating Equalz, Laney won a University of Northampton Changemaker* Award in 2018 for Changemaker Student of the Year.
Aside from her 500 trained professionals, Laney and her team are pushing ahead with a wider bank of projects. These include further supporting BAME organisations with their work tackling inequality and delivering bite-size training for school children about tackling issues such as knife crime or domestic abuse in young people’s relationships.
Laney concludes: “The University’s ‘super supportive’ ethos has really helped Creating Equalz get where it is. Even though I’ve now left, I am in close contact with my former lecturers who make it clear that I can still approach them for help and guidance.
“One day in the hopefully not too distant future, I want to sit down and talk about FGM to a room of people who have never heard of the phrase, but not because they are ignorant of it, but because FGM no longer exists. At that point – and not before – I’ll sit down and take a breather!”