Custom Search 1

Young Bristol women shape groundbreaking TV drama

ADVISOR: Muna Hassan (centre)

CHARITIES IN Bristol that work with minority communities in the city have played a key role in a groundbreaking episode of the BBC’s primetime hospital drama Casualty.

The show’s scriptwriters and research team met young women from Integrate Bristol, a charity that helps children and young people who arrive in the UK from other cultures and countries adapt to life in the UK.

In several consultations during 2012 and 2013 the women told the writers about the experiences they, their friends and relatives had of female genital mutilation (FGM), which can involve young girls being taken abroad for the dangerous procedure.

The women from Integrate Bristol were fully involved with the whole production process, discussing potential story ideas with the Casualty team and agreeing on the final storyline. Researchers also had initial storyline meetings with local activists and education institutions.

Their experiences, the work of public bodies in the city to raise awareness of the practice and representatives from minority communities helped shape the storyline.

GENERATIONS

The episode, broadcast on April 13, tells the story of a family faced with risks from FGM across generations. It is believed to be the first time that the issue has featured in a major British drama series.

Among the Integrate Bristol volunteers who took part in the consultations was Muna Hassan, recently named Young Person of the Year at the Sexual Health Awards for her work highlighting female genital mutilation.

She said: “I think it was very honourable of Casualty to make this programme since many big organisations have ignored it for a long time.  They approached the topic sensitively yet the programme still made clear the horrors of the procedure. I think the public will be shocked to see such a compelling and heart breaking story.”

Lisa Zimmermann, project manager of Integrate Bristol said: “We are delighted with the finished work; it is handled sensitively without avoiding any of the issues or demonising a particular community group.

We are hugely grateful to Casualty for having the courage to take on this issue which many people don’t want to talk about for fear of offending relatives and communities.”

Sasha Hails, the writer of the Casualty episode, said: “Having attended a conference in Bristol run by the inspiring young people of ‘Integrate Bristol’, I became convinced there was a way to talk about this issue in a mainstream family drama, looking at different generations struggling with tradition. It was clear that our hospital based format and with a medical investigation at the centre, provided us with a unique framework to keep the debate dramatic and compelling. We hope that a wider audience will be able to identify with this universal theme, helping to raise awareness of the issue.”

PROCEDURES

FGM carries the risk of death from bleeding or tetanus, and long-term problems including urinary incontinence, recurrent infections and chronic pain. In the case of type three, reversal procedures are necessary for childbirth.  It is estimated that around 2,000 girls are at risk in Bristol. It is illegal for any UK citizen to have any form of FGM and the law extends this protection to women and girls if they are taken outside of the country.

The Casualty research team also attended Integrate Bristol’s 2012 National FGM Conference at Bristol University which discussed how young people, members of the community plus professionals such as doctors, nurses, midwives and teachers can ensure better safeguarding of girls at risk, and suggested policy change.  One outcome of this conference is that Ofsted is now asking schools about the measures they have instituted to safeguard girls from FGM.

Dr Ray Jones, chair of the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, a multi agency project that educates professionals such as teachers, nurses and police officers and communities on the dangers of the illegal practice of female genital mutilation, said: “Although Casualty is fiction it is based on real, harrowing accounts shared by brave young women in Bristol.  It is important to remember that FGM is a form of child abuse and we applaud Casualty, Integrate Bristol and the communities now taking more of lead for raising awareness of the real and present risk girls face from female genital mutilation every day.”

Annual subscription for The Voice newspaper print edition.

Read more stories like this in our weekly printed newspaper. To purchase an annual subscription and get 50% off, complete the form below and enter the code 'ONLINE2017' - offer ends 30 November.

* indicates required
() - (###) ###-####
Facebook Comments