Orchid Project was founded in June 2010…
By Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE and gained official UK charitable status in April 2011. Julia was volunteering in Ethiopia when she first came across the practice of FGC, and was galvanised into taking action. Having witnessed for herself how widespread and damaging the practice was in just one country, she returned to the UK determined to help bring about an end to FGC. After volunteering with various charities and NGOs already working on the practice, in order to find out more about FGC, Julia threw herself into her new role as an ambassador for ending FGC. What followed were stints on the Trafalgar Square Plinth to raise awareness, a YouTube competition for a human rights campaigner to attend the World Economic Forum, and a trip to Davos after her three minute video won her a place in a global vote. At the forum Julia participated in a panel to discuss and debate the issue of FGC with the head of UNICEF, Amnesty International, and the UN Foundation. The debate was facilitated by Half the Sky co-author, Nick Kristof.
The main question brought to Julia at Davos was, “what can we do to end FGC?” and she found the answer to this after visiting Tostan, a Senegal-based NGO, in early 2011. Tostan’s community empowerment based education programme has helped lead to the widespread abandonment of FGC in communities across West Africa, and for the first time, Julia was coming into contact with people who were talking openly about the practice, rather than about FGC in terms of being a taboo. Returning from Senegal she realised that in order to bring about real change, setting up a charity with the sole purpose of ending FGC was the right course of action, and in 2011 Orchid Project was founded in order to fulfil this role.
Orchid Project has a vision…
Of a world free from female genital cutting. To achieve this we:
- Advocate to ensure stakeholders resource and prioritise an end to FGC
- Communicate the potential to end FGC within a generation and raise awareness about how, why and where FGC happens
- Partner with organisations that deliver a sustainable, proven end to FGC
Orchid is supported by…
Trusts and Foundations, and individual donors, as well as by funds raised by our supporter group based in Copenhagen Foreningen Orchid Project Danmark. Orchid Project is also very grateful for the support we have received from the following Trusts and Foundations:
We are also grateful for the generous support of Gregory Nasmyth and Samantha Rowe-Beddoe.
If you are a Trust or Foundation looking to fund an organisation like Orchid, please get in touch with us.
If you are an individual donor looking to make a donation, whether as a one-off or regular donation, please do so here.
Orchid Project’s staff is made up of…
A small group of employees, and a larger number of volunteers who have all generously donated their time over the years. The charity is based in Vauxhall just south of the river in London, and everyone who works there is united in a shared belief that empowering communities to work towards an end to FGC, and that abandonment can and will happen within the next generation.
Julia spent 18 years in the corporate sector, specialising in transport policy and communications. In 2008, she volunteered in Ethiopia, where she came to understand more about the devastating scale and impacts of female genital cutting (FGC). In 2010, she led a panel discussing how to end FGC at the World Economic Forum in Davos and then spent time in Senegal and The Gambia, visiting communities and seeing the incredible change at the grassroots level, where thousands of communities are choosing to abandon FGC. She set up Orchid Project in 2011 with a vision of a world free from female genital cutting and has created an organisation that has since been shortlisted for Best New Charity at the Charity Times Awards 2013. Julia has most recently been awarded an OBE for her work to end FGC.
Susan joined Orchid Project in October 2016, and is responsible for overseeing Orchid’s day to day operations and for delivering on the organisation’s strategic plan. Susan has spent more than 25 years in both the private and not-for-profit sectors, most recently as Executive Director of an international NGO implementing community development programmes in Haiti. Prior to that she was involved in microfinance development in rural China while living in Shanghai, and has spent many years in the international business consulting arena advising corporations on business strategy across borders. Susan has a passion for women’s rights and social justice issues, and is inspired by the mission of Orchid Project to work towards a world free from female genital cutting.
Lucy Walker, Knowledge and Programmes Manager
Lucy joined the Orchid team in April 2013 and works with our partners, grassroots activists and other stakeholders to share knowledge and our theory of change. She is involved in diverse areas of Orchid Project’s work, including research, policy and programmes. Before joining Orchid Project, Lucy was involved in a variety of youth work and environmental projects, working overseas in Kenya, Ghana and Costa Rica. She holds a first class degree in International Environmental Conservation from the University of Leeds.
Jenna Richards, Communications and Advocacy Assistant
Jenna joined Orchid Project in January 2016. In her current role she communicates how female genital cutting is ending on a range of media platforms. She also supports the CEO on international advocacy work. Jenna has previously volunteered in Kenya and Tanzania working on community programmes within healthcare, women’s rights and education. She also volunteered on youth programmes in India and indigenous rights projects with VSO in Cambodia. She holds a BA in International Development from the University of Sussex.
Ellie Harrison, Development Assistant
With roots in Kenya, Ellie felt compelled to do more to help end FGC after hearing a presentation by Orchid Project. She joined us in April 2016, and in her current role as Development Assistant works on all aspects of fundraising. Ellie holds an MA in Comparative Literature at University College London, specialising in feminist theory, queer theory and gender studies. She also holds a BA in Comparative Literature from King’s College London and has been involved with numerous voluntary endeavours within the arts and heritage sector.
Paolina Kara, Team Assistant
Paolina joined us in October 2016. In her current role she provides administrative, operational and research support to the Orchid Project team. Before joining Orchid Project, Paolina was based in York where she volunteered for various human rights and international development organisations. She has also worked as a lawyer for three years in Athens, Greece. She holds an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law and Practice from the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, and an LL.B. from the University of Athens, Greece.
Orchid Project is governed by a board of trustees who are also Directors of Project Orchid Ltd:
Cécile Belaman (Chair) is Managing Director with Bain Capital in London. Prior to joining Bain Capital in 2008, Cécile was with Morgan Stanley for nine years, most recently as Head of Global Fundraising for the Private Equity Fund of Funds business. Prior to 2003, Cécile was financial sponsor coverage officer for Morgan Stanley, overseeing investment banking relationships with private equity firms, including Bain Capital Europe. Cécile also worked for the financial sponsors group at JPMorgan and at HVS International. Cécile is also a founding member of Level 20, a not for profit organisation that aims to inspire women to join and succeed in the private equity industry.
Jim Drummond is a senior development professional who was part of DFID’s leadership team. He was most recently DFID’s Director for Western and Southern Africa and before that for South Asia. He has worked in India, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania and in senior positions in the Cabinet Office and FCO.
Emma McGuigan is Managing Director with Accenture’s UK and Ireland Technology business, a team dedicated to the application of technology to business solutions for clients. She has held a range of client roles in her 18 year career, ranging from client account lead to solution architect. In addition she drives the Accent on Women agenda for Technology in the UK, driving decisive action & tangible results on retention, recruitment & progression for Accenture women; running initiatives in the UK and across Europe.
Elisabeth Paulson is an investment director with Impetus-PEF. Previously, she has worked as a philanthropic consultant with innovative, international funders: The Elton John AIDS Foundation, Comic Relief and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. She worked for ten years with The Economist Intelligence Unit, where she was the Deputy Director of the Country Forecast Service, senior economist and editor of the Asia division and the lead South Asia analyst.
Michael Ritto has had a career that started in the music industry, working with Sony in the 1970s, building up to running, then owning a number of music businesses that are prominent in Denmark. As an entrepreneur, Michael is committed to investing in projects that make a real difference. His involvement with Orchid Project started when he saw Julia speak in 2010 and was instantly captured by the tremendous possibility of ending FGC within a generation.