A SUPPORT network for people who have or could experience female genital mutilation (FGM) will launch today.

Charity Oxford Against Cutting has created The Rose Community as a safe space for survivors and vulnerable girls from practising communities.

A report from City University London and human rights group Equality Now published this week suggested 545 women in Oxford, or seven in 1,000, had undergone the practice.

Dianne Regisford, media and advocacy advisor for Oxford Against Cutting, said: “The idea for the Rose Community was to promote a network of women who have experienced FGM and of young girls who may be at risk. It is a space where ideas can bloom and grow, a very gentle way to open up the box.”

A one-off event celebrating African culture at East Oxford Community Centre will mark the beginning of the project today, with regular meetings to be held in the future.

Prevalent in some African and Middle Eastern communities, FGM involves the cutting of female external genitalia for non-medical reasons.

Some of the staff members of Oxford Against Cutting are survivors themselves.

Advisor Kaddy Touray, 37, has lived in Abingdon since 2005 but grew up in Gambia and had the procedure when she was one.

She said: “When I got married it was difficult for me to conceive, and I had my first child, and later twins, through caesarian section.

“I’m lucky. There are lots of people going through the same problem who cannot even have their own child.

“We want to protect girls from being cut. It’s about raising awareness. I have three daughters and I do not want them to go through what I went through.”

The Rose Community has been set up with the help of The Rose Clinic, a specialist FGM clinic based at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Anyone interested in getting involved should visit the East Oxford Community Centre from noon to 3pm today.

In the last week, Oxford Against Cutting has also launched a poster campaign encouraging people to speak out about FGM during the summer months. Girls aged five to 12 are particularly vulnerable during this period, when families may take them abroad to have it done.

Executive director Kate Agha said: “This is the time when girls are most at risk. Because the holidays are quite long there’s ‘healing time’ so that they won’t come back in obvious pain when at school. FGM is very harmful and illegal. It is essential that communities work together to get support for girls at risk.”

If you or anyone you know is at risk of FGM, call the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s helpline on 0800 028 3550, or the Oxfordshire Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub on 0845 050 7666.

For more information on Oxford Against Cutting visit oxfordagainstcutting.org