ON THE GROUND: FPA (formerly The Family Planning Association)

Will Snell

Scheme: Jeena, a project for Asian women that examines the impact that sexual health issues can have on mental health

Funding: £25,000 from Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales to develop the second phase of the project (first phase funded by government)

Objectives: To help community organisations set up and provide their own sexual health information service for clients

Many people still believe the FPA runs family planning clinics. This role was actually taken over by the NHS in 1974, and the charity has since concentrated on providing high-quality information and services on sexual health.

The charity runs a range of projects targeting specific groups within the UK. One of these, called 'Jeena', which means 'living' in Hindi, examines the relationship between sexuality, sexual health and self-harm among young Asian women, mainly between the ages of 16 and 24. The project aims to increase awareness and understanding within this group of the social, cultural, religious and other issues faced by the women.

Beginning in October 2001, the first phase of the project ran focus groups with women originally from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to discover the kind of information and services they needed on sexual health. Research was conducted in Birmingham, Derby and London. Topics discussed included pre-marital sex, contraception, unplanned pregnancy, abortion and self-harm, as well as the concepts of izzat (honour) and sharam (shame).

Based on these sessions, a leaflet was produced explaining cervical smears, the pill and sexually transmitted infections.

Fatheena Mubarak, project officer, says: "There's a huge lack of awareness about sexual health among Asian women. Some women in the groups had attempted self-harm or suicide because of sexual abuse, forced marriage or their sexuality.

They need more support from their families and professionals so they can discuss their problems on sexuality and sexual health issues."

The £25,000 Lloyds TSB Foundation funding has enabled the next phase of the project to begin. The FPA will work in partnership with Asian women's groups to provide free information sessions, and to train group workers to continue the project on their own.

The objective is to provide accurate information about contraception and sexual health services in the UK and offer guidance to women on where they can go to address individual sexual health needs.

The charity aims to meet a minimum of 80 Asian women regularly and to develop the sexual health skills and increase the knowledge of at least six workers within the partner organisations. These include the Jagonari Centre, the Ashiana Project and the Soho Family Centre, based in London's Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Westminster.

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