University of Birmingham


Situated in the diverse city of Birmingham, the University of Birmingham is a prestigious innovative institute and has been ranked within the global top 100 universities carrying out vital research and attracting professionals from across the world.

University of Birmingham


  • 2
  • June 12, 2020
More Information

The Challenge

A group of PHD students from the University of Birmingham approached Word360 in 2018 when they required communication assistance for a significant research project, the FGM Sister Study.

The project’s aim was to reach out into local communities to investigate the prevalence and effect of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) in the region, predominantly in hard to reach BAME communities where English was not the spoken language. FGM/C survivors and their male partners formed the core of the study, but without communication support the researchers were unable to reach out to either group.

While the practice of FGM is illegal in the UK, many girls remain at risk with one case of FGM newly recorded every 92 minutes.

The Solution

Being as the subject matter was both difficult and sensitive, approaching the subject of FGM/C, which is often deemed as a taboo subject, required a speciality, multi-faceted, approach that at its core demonstrated sensitivity and compassion for all those involved.

Document Translation

The first, and most important step, was to ensure that information about the study could be successfully distributed in targeted communities and reach prospective volunteers. Word360 were presented with several documents that needed to be translated into two core languages, Arabic and Somali.

These documents included:

  • Advertisements for the project.
  • Contact cards to be distributed so volunteers could reach out to the researchers.
  • Information leaflets to be distributed in GP surgeries and community centres.
  • Participation information leaflets (PIL) for FGM/C survivors, and another for their male partners.

An important part of the PIL was explaining the terms and conditions of the study and the rights of the volunteers. By securing a successful translation of these stipulations, The University of Birmingham insured that the participants were informed of their rights and legal protections, so felt empowered in their own experience.

At Word360, we have always prioritised the human touch in our translations. The genuine empathy provided by our linguists meant that not only were the document translated correctly, they were localised and tailored to the specific target audiences resulting in a successful and well-rounded translation project.

Impartial Interpreting

Listening to and recording the stories of the participants was at the heart of this research project. As English was not spoken by the volunteers, alongside the document translation we supplied at the start of the study, we provided independent interpreters to attend the sessions.

Volunteers could take part in two ways, an individual interview or a small discussion group. Whichever method was opted for, communication support was necessary.

Word360 felt that face to face interpreting would be most suited to this task, as the comfort and reassurance of visual cues was essential in this case. In order to provide a specialised serviced, Word360 provided a training session, alongside University of Birmingham, for the Somali and Arabic interpreters who took part in the research to train them on FGM/C and the specialised requirements of the task.

By providing independent, trained, and unbiased interpreters Word360 — alongside the researchers — ensured that the participants felt safe to disclose their experiences and feelings accurately void of external pressures.

Directly providing communication support to the participants meant that the individuals, and the wider community, felt like they were being truly listened to and were not alienated by the research project which was coined by English speaking researchers.

The Future

The training that our interpreters received during the project has continued to be intrinsic in the outstanding service that Word360 supply. Trained communication support has been provided at FGM/C clinics across the region, including designated units at Heartlands Hospital at Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

Community outreach and awareness has remained a priority for the company. Specialised sessions on domestic violence for our linguists, hosted by Birmingham and Solihull Women’s aid, have ensured that issues facing women of colour and other minority ethnic groups are never pushed into the background.

Case Study Details

The FGM Study was a challenging yet sensitive project which explored a taboo subject matter that required special attention whilst communicating with participants.

CEO & Founder - Okler