Orchid Project shares knowledge, best practice and research as part of our mission to accelerate an end to female genital cutting (FGC). We communicate the realities of FGC as well as the hope and possibility that the practice can end. To achieve these goals, Orchid Project brings organisations together through our Knowledge Sharing Workshops (KSWs) to support those that are working towards ending FGC in their communities.
We also work with anti-FGC activists and survivors to support their attendance at the Tostan Training Centre (TTC) in Dakar, Senegal. Orchid Project’s partner Tostan delivers training to participants on their unique human rights-based approach for community-led development. Individuals supported by Orchid Project to participate in training at the TTC become Orchid Project Fellows, and go on to use this training to inform their future work as activists. A number of Orchid Project Fellows also work alongside us as ambassadors to speak at conferences, events and in the media.
Orchid Project amplifies the work of our partners and shares our message regarding FGC through communications channels. This website is just one of the platforms from which we communicate our message. We also work through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, to spread the word that FGC can end within our lifetimes.
We are committed to communicating about FGC in a non-sensational and accurate manner. We share information about where FGC happens, why it happens, how and how much it happens, as well as about how attitudes are changing, and how communities are abandoning the practice. Orchid Project is also committed to reporting the ways in which efforts towards change are often met with resistance, in order to accurately represent the obstacles that must be overcome to create change. A major part of this is securing press and media coverage, and we have been featured in a number of major media outlets.
Knowledge Sharing Workshops
Orchid Project is catalysing the movement to end female genital cutting (FGC) by sharing knowledge, research and best practice between actors at all levels: from the grassroots, to academia, activism, civil society, policy-making and governments. It is vital to gain a deeper understanding of the practice, why it happens, how it can end, and to share this knowledge widely to accelerate the movement to end FGC within our lifetimes.
We support local grassroots organisations to come together through Orchid Project’s Knowledge Sharing Workshops (KSWs). These workshops allow participants to share best practice and solutions to ending FGC, increase their understanding of UNICEF’s Six Elements of Abandonment of FGC, and create supportive sustainable networks that flourish and continue to exchange best practice.
Since 2015, Orchid Project has convened six KSWs in Kenya, Somaliland and Tanzania with 53 unique organisations that work towards ending FGC within their communities. Over 100 participants have attended an Orchid Project KSW and have taken key learnings back to their organisations on how FGC is ending, and how they can play a part in that change.
The KSWs use participatory approaches to practically explore UNICEF’s Six Elements of Abandonment and how they can be relevant to local contexts. Orchid Project KSWs aim to propagate knowledge and understanding on a social norms-based approach to ending FGC, which we believe is one of the most effective ways of empowering communities to abandon the practice.
The content of the workshop is interwoven with a focus on improving facilitation skills and understanding new concepts in monitoring and evaluation. Participants develop robust action plans that draw on skills and techniques used in the KSW. These action plans are then applied to an organisation’s existing work, with the aim of implementing learnings on the ground which are both achievable and sustainable. This also encourages exchanges between the network of organisations, contributing to their growth, connection and sustainability. Orchid Project works with participants to achieve their action plans within 12 months, while also connecting them to the wider network of KSW participants, and national and international opportunities to continue sharing experiences and learning.
Participants of Orchid Project KSWs include staff members from our partners in Kenya: SAFE Maa, the
Education Centre for Advancement of Women (ECAW) and Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW). We have also supported the participation of charities, NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) such as Msichana Empowerment Kuria in Kenya, the Edna Adan University Hospital in Somaliland, and organisations such as UNICEF and UNFPA in Somaliland.
If you are an organisation interested in participating in a future Orchid Project KSW, please contact our Programmes Officer, [email protected].
Orchid Project Ambassadors
Orchid Project has a number of fantastic ambassadors including Sister Fa. A Senegalese hip-hop star now based in Berlin, Sister Fa continually works to bring about an end to FGC through her taboo-busting songs and performances. By regularly travelling back to her home country Sister Fa has been central to the opening up of the conversation that surrounds the practice, and has immeasurably helped to bring this discussion to a much wider audience. Her charisma both on and off stage, and her willingness to speak openly and honestly about her own experiences, demonstrates the power that can be held by musicians when they choose to speak out loudly for social change. Not only is Sister Fa a strong, inspiring figure for girls to look up to, but as a cut woman she can speak directly to their own experiences and realities and urge them to focus on the need to bring about an end to FGC in their own lifetime.
Orchid Project has been supporting Sister Fa since 2011 by funding her educational tours and projects in West Africa. In February of 2015 she joined us in New York to mark the International Day Against FGC, where her award winning documentary Sarabah was screened. In 2013 she spoke at an event at the House of Lords held by Orchid Project alongside Lynne Featherstone, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for DFID where she spoke openly about FGC. In 2012 she also addressed the House of Commons at a Parliamentary reception held by Orchid Project, where she spoke to a delegation of parliamentarians, Ministers, and campaigners. She has also performed at the Evening Standard’s “1,000 Most Influential People in London” event, as well as the London African Music Festival.
In her own words, Sister Fa describes her experience of FGC and the reasons behind her own campaign to speak out about it:
“I went through female genital cutting (FGC) when I was a young girl. I still remember the day it happened to me. I felt betrayed. For years, I wondered why my mother had allowed this to happen. It was not until someone explained to me that she didn’t have a choice: she was not cutting me to harm me, but because she felt that she was doing what was the best for me. My home town in Senegal has now joined thousands of others and abandoned FGC. Once you know that everyone has a right to be free from all forms of violence, and that you yourself have a responsibility to help them achieve that right, you don’t look back.
I hope that what is happening in Africa will be supported around the world. I hope that people will feel inspired. I will tell people that footbinding in China ended in 20 years – why can’t FGC end the same way? I am just trying to speak for the many women who cannot raise their voices. I feel that when I talk, one person listens; but when I sing, thousands of people can hear my song.”
Sister Fa has also been the recipient of the prestigious ‘Freedom to Create’ award.
Our other Ambassadors are Jay Kamara Frederick and the novelist Christie Watson, writer of Tiny Sunbirds Far Away. Jay and Sister Fa worked especially closely with us and the media around the Girl Summit in 2014.