A TEAM of dedicated women from across Oxford are racing against time to get the word out about female genital mutilation (FGM) before summer.

Fledgling charity Oxford Against Cutting has launched a campaign encouraging men to speak up against the practice, which involves the cutting of female external genitalia for non-medical reasons, and is prevalent in some African and Middle Eastern communities.

It comes as the 'cutting season' begins in the West, where some families take their daughters abroad to undergo FGM during the summer holidays.

Executive director Kate Agha said: "We set up the charity early last year and have witnessed many girls and women in Oxford joining initiatives to tackle FGM.

"It is important that men from FGM communities understand what happens if their daughter is cut and how this will impact on her life."

As well as immediate pain and risk of infection, victims can suffer long-term problems such as infertility, post-traumatic stress disorder and difficulty in labour.

In 2014 Oxford was flagged up alongside 10 other towns and cities as a potential 'hotspot' for FGM by the Department of Health.

No official statistics exist for the city but Dr Brenda Kelly, founder of FGM specialist unit The Rose Clinic at the John Radcliffe Hospital, recently estimated that about one in 100 women in Oxford – about 1,500 – could have undergone the practice, making it as common as Type 1 Diabetes.

Ms Agha added: "The clinic has had high demand and had to grow its team, and there are going to be lots we don't know about."

The new posters will be distributed across the city and further afield. It calls on men to 'Speak up' and bears the strapline 'Everyone can help'.

Its central image, of a young African man taking off a gag to speak, was designed by an Oxford schoolgirl specially for the campaign.

Advisor Kaddy Touray, who underwent FGM as a one-year-old in Gambia, said: "People are nervous about speaking up because they are worried about offending people.

"It is not always straightforward to assess a girl's risk but if anyone is at all worried, they should get advice.

"Our message in this campaign is to speak up. The helplines are for everyone, not only girls at risk."

If you are or know someone at risk of FGM call the NSPCC for free on 0800 028 3550, or the Oxfordshire Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub on 0845 050 7666.

If someone is at immediate risk call the police on 999. For more information or support from The Oxford Rose Clinic email oxfordrose.clinic@nhs.net