A recent fundraiser to end female genital cutting through a public event with a sex toy, claiming to raise awareness and funds about FGC on our behalf, was a viral success. Whilst you don’t need advance permission to fundraise for us, of course, if you’re thinking of doing something controversial, it is best to consider how this reflects on our work.

We don’t want to dismiss the efforts of those wanting to raise awareness. We would much rather encourage them! But we will always support fundraising in a manner that most suits our work; this comes first. Everyone has a different approach and sometimes we have to take the hard decision that money wasn’t raised in a way that we are comfortable with, in this case refusing the donation.

In this particular instance, it is important to note that understanding of the nature of bodily integrity, or sexuality, differs around the world and it is important to bear this in mind. Equally, the average age of cutting is between 5 and 8 years and so sexual imagery is not appropriate. We do not want to shy away from the long term physical and mental health issues FGC causes, but rather to say that from our point of view, this is not the best way to draw attention to these. We did try and contact the organisers to talk about our decision when returning the money, but have not had any response from them, nor any contact at any other point.

Female genital cutting is a taboo subject, hard to discuss and we work with partners in communities where change is yet to happen – FGC still takes place and any discussion to end the practice is at the earliest stages. Often, these can be very conservative communities and understanding this is vital – our approach has to take this into account. Our website and our work is viewed by people all over the world, from practising and non-practising countries.

This is why we set out to support work that has a respectful approach. If we were to appear to make light of what, for many people, is a life changing decision, no progress would ever be made. It is sometimes hard to marry how awareness raising takes place away from practising communities with the discussions taking place within but we always aim to do this from a basis of respect: respect for the women and girls who have either undergone or who may undergo FGC and respect for the work being done to end FGC.

Female genital cutting is a violation of human rights and a form of violence against women and girls. We want to raise awareness of this by showing people the impacts FGC has and the scale at which it happens, but we also want to show the positive stories, of how FGC is ending. So we encourage people to come to us, offer your ideas and work with us to raise awareness. Together we can end FGC.

Posted in News, Orchid Project news

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