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National FGM Centre appoints new head

Release Date: 25 Nov 2017

A social worker whose expertise includes protecting children from harmful traditional practices has been chosen to head up the National FGM Centre.

Leethen Bartholomew’s appointment comes as the Centre - run by Barnardo’s in partnership with the Local Government Association - expands its remit to include preventing child abuse linked to faith or belief, and breast ironing or flattening.

The 43-year-old has been a social worker for almost 20 years, and has spent more than a decade tackling FGM.

Having trained the National FGM Centre social workers before the Centre opened in March 2015 Leethen says his new job is almost like coming home.

Leethen Bartholomew said:

I want the Centre to not only be known for combating female genital mutilation but also for protecting children from other forms of harmful practices.

I want it to be the go-to place when professionals need research, when they need training and consultancy, in addition to working innovatively with local authorities.

People are sometimes surprised to find a man so strongly involved in this work, but it’s rarely been an issue in the decade I’ve spent working with affected communities to prevent and tackle FGM. From my experience, once you adopt an approach where it's not only about being knowledgeable but where your heart is really in the issue, that makes a big difference.

The Government’s aim is to end FGM [in the UK] by 2030, in a generation, and I want us to be able to look back and say the Centre played a really active and important role in making that difference.

I'm just glad to be part of the process and making history.

Director of the National FGM Centre, Michelle Lee-Izu said:

We are delighted to announce that Leethen has been appointed the new head of the National FGM Centre.

Leethen is a qualified social worker with almost 20 years’ experience tackling a wide range of child protection issues, including FGM and other harmful traditional practices around faith or belief which the Centre is also working to prevent.

His vast skills and knowledge in the children’s social care sector will complement the Centre’s highly experienced female specialist team which works directly with women and girls to end FGM.

It is important men have a role in raising awareness around this serious form of child abuse and preventing new cases of FGM, as well as stopping other forms of harmful traditional practices. We welcome Leethen’s expert insight in helping the Centre to reach out to as many communities as possible to identify and protect children at risk.

The National FGM Centre leads the way in preventing FGM through innovative social work, working with local authorities and other agencies, helping girls, their families and affected communities, and training professionals like social workers and teachers to spot girls at risk of FGM and knowing what to do.

Specially trained staff will adopt a similar approach to prevent child abuse linked to faith or belief, and breast ironing and flattening.


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