…successfully promote an end to FGC through a non-directive, human rights led education approach which accelerates the ending of the practice in communities by working on the basis that FGC is a social norm, and a violation of human rights, rather than a religious or health issue.
Orchid Project and our programme partners all believe that ultimately a community must collectively decide to abandon the practice of FGC, in order for everyone involved to understand that the practice must, and can end. As such, all of our programme partners work at a grassroots level.
Find out about our partners…
…an NGO based in Dakar in Senegal, which works throughout West Africa including in The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, and Mauritania, as well as Senegal. Since Tostan’s founding, they have helped bring about the abandonment of FGC in over 7,700 communities across West Africa, by equipping them with the knowledge that the practice does not have to continue. Read more about this on Tostan’s website.
Tostan delivers a human-rights based Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) which is a 30 month long programme delivered by local staff in local languages. Our partnership with Tostan complements the CEP and is based around their concept of ‘Social Mobilisation’. An Orchid Project funded ‘Social Mobilisation’ programme is currently taking place in Kolda and Sédhiou in southern Senegal as well as Fouta in the north of the country, and we are supporting this programme through to the end of 2015, and hopefully beyond. This Social Mobilisation programme involves working with teams of volunteers who have already abandoned FGC to spread the message of abandonment, and encourage others to join them through awareness raising and human rights based education. These programmes are crucial to the rapid diffusion of the message of abandonment, and can help bring about an end to FGC in surrounding communities which haven’t been a part of the Community Empowerment Programme.
The Social Mobilisation project has led to the abandonment of FGC in 72 communities…
…and in the first two years has visited 350 communities, and reached over 20,000 people. A big part of the Social Mobilisation programme and its continued success lies in the identification of social mobilisation agents. These agents are all volunteers, and are identified by the abandoning community as particularly good communicators, who have also been especially inspired by the move to abandon FGC in their own community. Usually they will be particularly supportive of the idea that FGC is a harmful and unnecessary social norm above all else, and will have been able to spot the connection between the practice and early and forced marriage (EFM). In most cases these agents are a mixture of women and men and are already either religious, community, or traditional leaders, who are widely respected, as well as involved and engaged with their community at large.
In 2014 we also funded the purchase of tablets to be used by the teams and their supervisors. These tablets support easier monitoring of the project, and also enable the teams to show people what others in their social networks are thinking and saying about female genital cutting.
Tostan provides the training needed for these social mobilisation agents in areas such as how to facilitate discussion, especially around a sensitive and difficult subject. The work done on this project both by the staff at Tostan, and by the social mobilisation agents themselves is truly inspiring, and Orchid is proud and privileged to be supporting such a successful programme.
To complement the work done by social mobilisation agents in communities we also fund awareness-raising tours in schools, press tours, and radio broadcasts. Radio is one of the most important forms of media in Senegal, with most people have access to radio in some way, even in the most remote communities.
In Orchid Project’s first year we supported Tostan in a smaller way, by funding transport costs to enable programme supervisors and social mobilisation agents to visit more communities. The first tranche of funding went to the Gambia so that social mobilisation agents could easily travel between villages in order to carry out their work. We also funded the purchase of motorcycles in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Mauritania, as well as the cost of 14 motorcycle helmets, in order to ensure Tostan’s agents can travel easily, quickly, and safely between their destinations.
…to ensure the abandonment of FGC in Kenya. ECAW (Education Centre for the Advancement of Women) is a grassroots organisation working for the rights and empowerment of girls and women in Kuria in South West Kenya. They have been working in this area since 2006 and are currently the only women’s and girls’ rights organisation working out of the area. The founder of ECAW, Dennitah Ghati is local to Kuria and has resisted FGC and other harmful traditional practices. Since February 2013 she has also been a member of parliament, as well as being an influential local leader. Orchid Project has partnered with Feed the Minds and ECAW from January 2014 – March 2016 on a programme which focuses on fostering a movement for change in five rural villages in Kuria.
ECAW’s aim is to enhance and promote girls’ and women’s equality and potential through the mobilisation, and education of communities, which includes the sensitisation of communities through the use of advocacy and partnerships. Like Orchid, ECAW sees bringing an end to FGC as one of the key ways in which girls’ and women’s rights can be promoted and extended. As with the end of Early and Forced Marriage (EFM), bringing about an end to FGC allows more girls to stay in school. One of ECAW’s main programmes works with over 30 women paralegals, also known as community outreach workers, who have been trained to offer basic legal advice to community members.
ECAW’s paralegals work to engage the wider community in a conversation surrounding FGC, and focus their attention on the education of girls, in order to raise their status and teach them their rights. Most of their activity involves the wider community, and paralegals will take part in various village forums, as well as provide support either practically or verbally to girls and their families when it comes to choosing to abandon FGC. ECAW have also recently recruited several male paralegals, including some older men who hold significant influence in the community.
There is also a need in Kuria for access to health care and information regarding female reproductive health and FGC. As part of this programme, the ECAW team deliver workshops with groups of stakeholders which hold power within the community, including parents, teachers, health workers and traditional leaders, as well as attending community forums to speak about FGC. They also deliver girls’ empowerment programmes and school clubs where girls are educated about their rights and their health.
On a more positive note, however, the numbers of girls being cut does seem to be falling, and the presence of some of ECAW’s paralegals seems to have made a real difference to these girls’ lives. ECAW’s and Orchid’s ambitions are even greater, however, and the project’s aim is to promote discussions of abandonment of FGC amongst the entire community, in order to strengthen and promote the rights of girls and women in these five rural villages.
Unlike ECAW, Feed the Minds is a UK-based international development charity. Choosing to focus on education and building grassroots organisations, Feed the Minds supports some of the world’s most marginalised individuals and communities by promoting literacy and education as well as a greater understanding that goes beyond both those things. Ultimately, Feed the Minds believes in the transformative effects of education and its ability to promote the kind of understanding that is relevant to people’s lives, whatever their situation or experience.
Feed the Minds has worked with communities throughout Africa including in Tanzania, Egypt, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and others around the world. Feed the Minds and ECAW have collaborated since 2008.
FGC prevalence in Kuria is high…
…but Kenya is a particularly interesting case study when it comes to the abandonment of FGC, for although overall the country has experienced one of the highest rates of abandonment among 15 African countries (Unicef, 2013), there are certain areas, communities, and ethnic groups where the rate of cutting amongst girls still remains worryingly high.
Prevalence in Kenya has fallen overall by an impressive 11% from 1998 to 2009 and currently stands at 27%. But in Somali, Maasai, Kisii, and Kuria communities, the prevalence rate is over 90%. In Kuria in particular, the rate is officially 96%, with girls tending to be cut in their early teens between the ages of 12 and 15. However, the ECAW team’s baseline survey did find that 80% of 910 women whom they surveyed had been cut, which is slightly lower.
Within these communities, FGC is very much a part of their coming-of-age traditions, and is seen as a rite of passage for girls. This sense of tradition means that the practice is even further embedded in the community as a social norm, and Kuria’s isolation from the rest of the country only tends to exacerbate such issues, with the position of girls and women remaining vulnerable. For example the area not only has a high prevalence rate for FGC, but also for school drop-out, and EFM. In Kuria there is also very low media penetration, with no local radio, which affects people’s knowledge and understanding of the rest of Kenya. Girls marrying into the Kuria community also tend to be cut so as to allow easy assimilation and acceptance into their new family and wider community.
…who are a Kenyan based NGO and UK charity. They run S.A.F.E Maa programmes in the Maasai communities of the Loita Hills, in the South West of Kenya, and have been delivering programmes in this area since 2008, reaching 15 villages, and over 7,500 Maasai. S.A.F.E Maa is dedicated to changing the attitudes surrounding FGC in the Maasai communities of Loita Hills, as a way to help create community-led change, and Orchid Project were able to support one tour as part of this programme in 2013. We have continued to work closely with S.A.F.E ever since, and are looking to further our relationship and develop programmes with them in the future.
Before S.A.F.E started working with these communities it was believed that the prevalence rate of FGC amongst girls and women was close to 100%. Now, however, it is estimated that almost 20% of girls remain un-cut, partaking instead in alternative rite of passage performances or ceremonies when they come of age. Orchid Project is proud to have been a part, even in a small way, of this important work and the excellent progress that is being made.
S.A.F.E. Maa’s programmes involve four key aspects…
Community consultation and research
S.A.F.E Maa involves members of the community at all levels, from elderly men and women, children and youth, cutters, and families in the discussion surrounding the practice of FGC. In 2008, S.A.F.E began in-depth research on what would help bring about an end to the practice, involving door-knocking and taboo breaking conversations, and the conclusion was that an alternative rite of passage tradition which was created and owned by the community, but also safe and healthy for the girls involved was required.
Alternative rite of passage
As S.A.F.E Maa found during their preliminary research period, it is vital for the Maasai to have a rite of passage ceremony held for girls who have come of age as women, in order to publicly recognise this change, and publicly accept them as women in their community. While maintaining aspects of the community’s traditional rite of passage, S.A.F.E Maa worked closely with members of the community to create a new tradition that no longer included cutting but still enabled girls to publicly graduate into womanhood.
After years of research, S.A.F.E Maa developed a performance in Kimaasai to initiate discussion, and break the silence surrounding FGC. The performers involved are all S.A.F.E Maa staff members who have gained the trust of the community.
S.A.F.E Maa has developed a network of volunteer advocates including men, women, young people, elders, cutters and traditional birth attendants (who would have also traditionally acted as the cutters). All volunteers are provided with workshops and training in development, advocacy skills, and education. Upon completion of training, they will take up leadership roles within the community so as to continue to raise awareness about the harm that FGC causes, and to facilitate further change.
…is a transnational organisation working in India, Pakistan and with South Asian diaspora communities around the world. Their mission is to empower Asian communities to end FGC, with a specific focus on the Dawoodi Bohra community. Sahiyo, which is the Bohra Gujarati word for ‘saheliyo’, or ‘friends’, engage in dialogue with communities to find a collective solution towards ending the practice of FGC or ‘khatna’.
The organisation was set up by five inspiring women, who come from a range of backgrounds including academia, communications, filmmaking, journalism and women’s rights campaigning. You can read about co-founder Mariya Taher’s personal story on Orchid Project’s blog.
Sahiyo works towards their mission to end FGC and create positive social change through dialogue, education and collaboration based on community involvement. They support Dawoodi Bohra activists working to end FGC discussion events, facilitate research conversations on FGC, run training workshops for the media, lobby government and carry out community outreach, as well as collecting story submissions from women and girls who have been affected by FGC.
Orchid Project is proud to support the organisational development of Sahiyo to strengthen their capacity to work on ending FGC.
…is an NGO based in Nairobi which was founded in 1995 to support vulnerable and marginalised people’s lives in Kenyan communities. Their vision is that of a society free from all forms of violence against women, including FGC.
They work throughout Kenya on three key initiatives; access to justice, movement building, advocacy and communications. Their programmes focus on growing social movements that are committed to ending violence against women, by strengthening the voices and impact of women leaders as ‘champions of change’ at a community level. COVAW also links local, national and regional policy processes, and works to ensure women have access to services and justice. They work both at a governmental and community level across the country, and work with 112 community activists, over 200 paralegals, and 23 advocates.
COVAW participates in and advocates for a multifaceted approach to ending FGC. They work with community members, elders and traditional leaders, community activists, religious leaders, women leaders, and county-level duty bearers to address and prevent cultural practices that are harmful to women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health, including FGC, gender-based violence and child early and forced marriage.
In July 2017, Orchid Project partnered with COVAW to support a 3-month pilot in the Narok region of Kenya. The project focused on facilitating community dialogue, supporting duty bearers to champion community change in relation to FGC, raising public awareness of the practice, fostering sharing and learning and increasing organisational capacity.
Orchid Project is delighted to be a partner of COVAW and support this important work empowering communities to prevent and end FGC in Kenya.
There are several ways that you can support our work to end FGC. Donations are always welcome but we also need Ambassadors to inform themselves about female genital cutting and to spread the good news of abandonment and the hope that an end is possible within a generation.
Here are some ideas for ways that you can support us:
1. Inform yourself about FGC and what is being done to tackle the issue. Our new website is full of information and we regularly post new blogs on a variety of issues. Education is the first step to ending FGC, so please inform yourself.
2. Keep updated on our activities so that you can keep in touch with our news, our forthcoming events and fundraisers:
3. Raise awareness by sharing information about FGC and Orchid Project across your networks. Honest and open discussions are really important in taking the taboo out of FGC.
4. Fundraise for Orchid Project. Whether you’re a runner, a swimmer, a mountain climber, an event organiser or none of those, you can raise money for Orchid Project by setting yourself a sponsored challenge, or organising a fundraising event. Get in touch to let us know more about what you’d like to do.
Events held for Orchid project
Women in the Fire Service (UK) raised awareness and funds at their annual training and development weekend. Anne, organising the event, said:
“It all went very well, we had a raffle, an auction of a fabulous photography book (An African Story) by one of our team, Shilla Patel, a book sale, and a quiz. We put information into every delegate pack, and we’ll mention it in the write ups for our website, newsletter & magazines to continue helping to raise awareness.”
Red Leather Couch Productions performed the Vagina Monologues, donating all proceeds to Orchid Project. Tanya, the founder of the group, said: “This was all just a crazy idea that I came up with and three friends decided to help me put it all together. And then 113 people showed up to our show. It was the coolest, funnest, best day. I really hope this money helps to prevent many young girls from having to undergo FGC and that it is eventually eradicated completely.”
Keele Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society and Keele Tropical Medical Society held an FGM talk for medical students and other healthcare professionals, including nurses and midwifes, in February 2015. Haneen Abed, who organised the event, said, “The talk was given by Miss Fidelma O’Mahony, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Senior Lecturer at Keele Medical School. This was an opportunity for students to find out more about a continuing public health issue of FGM occurring across globe. As healthcare professionals, there is a high possibility that we may be faced with females, both young and old, having had FGM affect them, or be at risk of it affecting them, and hence it is of paramount importance that we are educated about it.
The event was a great success, with nearly 100 attendees of varying healthcare backgrounds. As well as educating ourselves, we felt it a prime opportunity to also help do something to aid cessation of FGM worldwide, hence we decided to collect donations for Orchid Project. With thanks to all attendees, we raised £92.85. We hope this will provide the charity with some additional support to help end FGM worldwide!”
On September 14th, 2014, Vicki, Sarah and Anna all completed a team triathlon for Orchid Project. They swam (Vicki), cycled (Sarah) & ran (Anna) to raise money for Orchid Project. Congratulations from everyone at Orchid Project!
Stacey and Chris, Julie, Jackie and Carmel took part in the 10k Total Warrior challenge on 2nd August 2014: “After seeing the documentary ‘Cruel Cut’ on TV we felt compelled to join the campaign. We realised the importance of raising awareness to help stop barbaric and unnecessary cruelty that continues to affect so many young girls and women.
We jumped over fire, ran through live electric wires and climbed several hurdles to raise funds. Each personal fear that was conquered through the 10k obstacle course felt all the more victorious knowing that we were raising money for such a worthwhile cause.”
Zoe Gerrard writes: “In 2013 Rosslyn Hill Chapel held an evening of dancing as part of the campaign to raise awareness of the fact that one in seven women will suffer abuse during their lifetime. It was so successful that a Ministry of Dance has been formed and we hold fundraising dances about every three months.
This time we wanted to support the Orchid Project in its campaign against FGM and raised £130. The evening, which one person described as “magical” consisted of dancing to a wide range of music, including swing, African and Eastern European, some dances choreographed and others free dancing. We also had a meditative time in which we shared poems about children, but the highlight was the recitation by a six-year-old of the sonnet “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
Sharing food in the company of lively-minded people added to the pleasure of a special evening.”
In February 2014, Devan Moore took part in the Furness Charity Challenge in the Lancaster Grand Theatre, raising £500 for Orchid Project. Devan entered the talent contest after hearing colleagues at work talking about FGC:
“I overheard some people at work talking about it, I didn’t know what they were speaking about at first I thought it was a film or something, but when they went into all the details I couldn’t help but ask what it was they were talking about. I wanted to do anything I could to help, and luckily a few weeks later I was told about Furness charity challenge, and I was positive this was the charity I wanted help.”
Yvonne Obura delivers talks on FGC on behalf of Orchid Project, traveling to universities and events to discuss the issue. Yvonne is a doctor who is passionate about increasing awareness of FGC among her fellow medical colleagues and improving understanding on this issue.
Student Monisha Jackson said, “I chose to put forward supporting Orchid Project for JAGS’ 2014 Multicultural Evening because I felt it was extremely important to raise awareness about FGC. Many young people are unaware that such a thing is happening to girls and women both globally and right here in the UK. I want to be part of putting an end to this horrific practice and hope that the more young people learn about FGC the more they will fight for it to be stopped.”
In January 2014, Tina McCloskey held a second ‘SkyHigh’ event. In celebration of her birthday, proceeds from ticket sales were donated to Orchid Project and Camfed. Thanks Tina!
“The reason I am doing the event is that a few years ago I read the book “Half the Sky”, and the stories about the lives of women across the globe just caught me, made me feel that my woes are nothing and that unless I do even one small thing to help then it is better than nothing. I normally don’t care about celebrating my birthday but as other people do care about birthdays, I thought it a good way to get people to donate to charities whilst also having a laugh and a dance. People get asked to sponsor people for 10k runs etc all the time so there is a bit of an overload.
Hopefully the event also brings topics like FGM into people’s thoughts, as they may look up more information on the charities I am collecting for. We are all too good at putting our head in the sand and thinking, ‘what can little ole me do to make a difference?’ In general I try to get people to read Half the Sky in the hope that others will do little things as well. All together we can make a difference surely.”
Musicians Tony Roberts and Sera Owen held a gig to raise awareness and funds for FGC and Orchid at Blue Sky café in Bangor, Gwynedd in October 2013. A huge thanks goes to the two artists who gave their time and talent. Anna Sen, who helped organise the event, said:
“Quite a few people approached me at the end to say thanks for letting them know more about FGC. I’d like to think that the more people that are aware of this, the greater the chances of change. This is just the beginning as far as I am concerned, and I’d like to think we are spreading awareness in a rural part of the UK; up here people don’t manage to get to fundraising events as easily.”
See the artists’ pages and music here:
In September 2013, London-based band Molotov Jukebox supported Orchid Project as part of their Pledge Music campaign towards their latest album. Molotov Jukebox are a 6 piece band with a musical focus that ranges from gypsy to swing, through latin soul and calypso to disco to dubstep. They are fronted by Game of Thrones and Harry Potter star Natalia Tena, who said:
“We chose the Orchid Project because I was reading an article in a paper about this incredible charity on international women’s day and learning some of the facts about female genital mutilation. This takes away a woman’s right to enjoy her body, her sexuality and furthermore a huge part of her sense of self (the point in these patriarchal abusive societies) makes me furious. This was further fuelled by reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an incredible woman who has struggled hugely and triumphed to tell her story. I desperately wanted to help by using what I do to stop that. All the band agreed and here we are putting a percentage of every pledge towards stopping this crime against women.”
Earlier in 2013, Orchid Project volunteer Meena cycled 1000 miles from Seattle to San Francisco, raising money for Orchid Project along the way. She writes in her blog (which you can read in full here):
“I actually had no idea, or to what scale, FGC was even going on, and really commend the work that Orchid Project are doing by understanding the cultural root of the issue. It’s really important to raise awareness and to help people understand sensitive issues such as FGC.”
Marie Sofie Lien Sori held a cake sale and awareness campaign about female genital cutting at The University of Essex with her lacrosse club on November the 15th 2012. She said:
“We sent out emails to the University department of Government, created a Facebook event where we posted details about the practice and contacted other groups on campus to spread the word of what we were doing. With help from the Orchid Project we had pamphlets to hand out as well as info graphics at the stall so people could get information about the issue and how they could contribute to ending FGC. One thing that was very noticeable was how many people were thankful that the issue of FGC was being raised. FGC cannot be stopped by a sports club in Europe. However, what we can do is to shed some light on an issue that is under-represented. We can all help to stop FGC by talking about it and giving our support. It is simple; when people know they want to help and when we stand together the case grows stronger.”
Girls Girls Girls is a collective of female artists who have been working together and supporting Orchid Project with a series of live shows in intimate venues across London. The aim of bringing their work together in a collective is to stand up as young female artists in collaboration to empower each other, show casing their talents, be it music, illustration, photography or dance. They have chosen to do this in a way that supports the work of the Orchid Project – highlighting our work to empower girls and young women, and raising some funds for Orchid while they are at it.
Orchid Project took part in the Women’s 5k Challenge in Hyde Park on the 11th September 2011. In total, we had 13 supporters participating, over half of whom ran the 5k course in times around the 30 minute mark, with the rest opting to have a more leisurely walk through the beautiful Hyde Park scenery.
We want to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has given us their support! If you feel like organising an event to raise awareness for Orchid Project please do get in touch – we’d love to support you. Email [email protected] to find out more.
In Memory of Zoe Miller
It is with tremendous sadness and shock that we learnt about the untimely death of Zoe Miller, in a tragic accident near her home on 23 April 2012.
Two months earlier, we met Zoe for the first time on International Day against female genital cutting, on 6th February. Her mum, Jane, had asked that she attend our event at the House of Commons.
Zoe showed poise, understanding, compassion and maturity. She also loved meeting Sister Fa, and the atmosphere at the concert later on in the evening. It made us more intent to understand that everyone needs to respond to the challenges of FGC with their own honesty and truth. Above all else, as a girl raised in Africa and having travelled to so many places in her life, she seemed to really comprehend the sensitivities and complexities behind FGC and its ending.
It is with great honour that Orchid has accepted the Miller family’s wishes to set up a fund to celebrate her life. To know that somehow, Zoe’s spirit will be with us as we continue our tireless work to help end female genital cutting seems entirely fitting. We hope we do justice to her adventurous spirit and loving determination, of her and of her family.
If you would like to donate in memory of Zoe Miller, you may do so here.
Donate to Orchid Project
Orchid Project is a lean, energetic, efficient outfit and always intend to remain so. Your donation will help us make more of an impact. Any amount will help us to continue with our work.
You can donate to us in a number of ways:
1. Donate regularly. If you can commit to a regular monthly donation, you can be part of ending FGC. Regular donations let us plan for the future and mean we can commit to more projects and progress. And if you’re a UK tax payer, with Gift Aid we can claim an extra 25p in every £1 donated.
2. Make a one-off donation – please remember to Gift Aid your donation.
3. Write us a cheque or set up a standing order. Contact us here for more details.
5. If you are Danish, join Foreningen Orchid Project Danmark, our Danish supporter group based in Copenhagen.
Orchid Project: Our year in review 2016 to 2017
Orchid Project: Our year in review 2015 to 2016
Orchid Project: Our year in review 2014 to 2015
Orchid Project: Our year in review 2013 to 2014
Orchid Project: Our year in review 2012 to 2013
Orchid Project: Our year in review 2011 to 2012
Orchid Project communicates the realities of FGC…
As well as the hope and possibility that the practice can and is ending. This takes place over a variety of platforms, and within a variety of audiences. These include those in the development sector working on women’s or health issues, politicians and influential decision makers, and of course, the wider public.
This website is just one of the platforms from which we communicate our message regarding FGC. We also work through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, to better spread the message that FGC can and should end, as well as educating partners, interested parties, and the public on what exactly FGC is. We see one of our main duties as being a place where stories from around the world, and amongst other activists and organisations come together, and so we often include their stories in our regular roundup of news stories, or blog updates.
When it comes to communicating about FGC, we are completely committed to doing so in a non-sensational, and accurate manner. We aim to relay to the public and other interested parties 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. As well as reporting on how attitudes are changing, 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 involved in creating change. A major part of this is securing press and media coverage, and we have been featured in a number of major media outlets.
Orchid Project aims to reach out to new, diverse audiences…
Through our FGC awareness raising programmes and projects. For us, this is as much, if not more, about raising the awareness of FGC in this country and beyond, as it is about raising funds. In the past we have held dinners, film nights, and casual discussions. Some of these have been in support of the International Day Against FGC, for which we have held receptions at the UK Houses of Parliament, as well as overseas in Denmark, and the US.
One of our regular fixtures, and most popular and successful events has been our collaboration with Girls, Girls, Girls. These events are held by talented musicians, and Orchid Project supporters, Sam Lindo and Eliza Shaddad, who have been working with Orchid Project since 2011. The nights held by Girls, Girls, Girls showcase all-female musicians, and performers and help spread the word regarding Orchid Project and our aim to end FGC. The performances are usually held in London and can be found at locations as diverse as St Pancras Old Church, and Dalston Old Boys’ Club.
If you’re interested in helping raise awareness of FGC then please find out how to do so here.
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.
Orchid Project’s aim is to advocate at every level…
For increased attention and resources to be invested in ending FGC. Here at orchid Project we believe that FGC can only end with the help of actors, activists and decision makers at every level – from grassroots, to regional, national and international actors.
We advocate to governments and influential decision makers to accelerate a global end to the practice, and use the most appropriate advocacy actions for whichever issue we may be working with, or for whichever level we are working at. Within the UK this advocacy has taken the shape of making the case to the Department for International Development (DFID), to make an investment in the help to end FGC, thus playing a key role in the subsequent commitment of £35 million to end FGC. In July 2014, we also hosted the pre-summit reception for DFID’s Girl Summit, which was a highly significant event, being the first of its kind and entirely dedicated to promoting the rights of the girl.
Orchid Project holds and attends many advocacy events…
Outside of the UK, Orchid Project hosted a reception at the US Ambassador’s residence in Copenhagen in November 2014, as well as holding an international conference with partners on FGC. Our relationship with our sister organisation in Copenhagen has been vital to our continued efforts to bring about an end to FGC and we have held a number of events in conjunction with them.
In the USA we held a reception at the British High Commission in New York City, hosted by the UK Ambassador to the UN to mark the international day for the abandonment of FGC on February 6 2015. Speakers at this event included our CEO Julia, our Orchid Project Ambassador Sister Fa, the UK Ambassador and representatives of UNFPA and Unicef. A month later in March 2015 we also held a panel at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, raising the profile of the scale of FGC outside of Africa by working with panellists from the Middle East and Asia. We have a presence at CSW each year.
In July 2015 we organised and held a panel at the third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, working with our diverse panellists to highlight the need for increased investment in ending FGC, as well as the importance of FGC’s inclusion in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
We endeavour to continue our advocacy at all levels, and to further promote understanding around FGC and the ways in which we can bring an end to the practice within a generation.
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.
Clodagh McCarthy, Programmes Manager
Clodagh joined Orchid Project in September 2017 and is responsible for managing Orchid’s growing programmes portfolio – working with grassroots partners to design, implement, monitor and evaluate programmes, showcasing the impact of our work. Prior to joining Orchid Project, she gained experience in programme design and monitoring and evaluation as Senior Programmes Manager with Restless Development. She is passionate about girls empowerment, youth participation and youth engagement in data and accountability. Clodagh has volunteered on community projects in Zambia and holds an MSc in Development and Security from University of Bristol and a BA in International Relations from Dublin City University.
Miranda Dobson, Communications Manager
Miranda joined the Orchid Project team in September 2017, and is responsible for all aspects of communication across our fundraising and advocacy work, as well as to amplify the work of Orchid’s partners. Prior to joining Orchid Project, she gained experience as a journalist, a marketer for Oxford University Press, and most recently in charity communications. She is passionate about women’s rights, and set up the Oxford branch of anti-street harassment organisation, Hollaback! She is also a Trustee for FGM/C rights-based charity, Oxford Against Cutting. Miranda holds an MSc in Modern Literature from the University of Edinburgh, and a BA in English literature from Newcastle University.
Jenna Richards, Programmes Officer
Jenna joined Orchid Project in January 2016. In her current role she supports work with our partners, associates and fellows. 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.
Eleanor Harrison, Development and Advocacy Officer
With roots in Kenya, Eleanor 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 and Advocacy Officer she supports all aspects of fundraising and advocacy. Eleanor 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.
Shupikai Shenje, Office Administrator
Shupikai joined Orchid Project in June 2017 and plays a critical support role across all departments. She has several years of administrative experience working in many sectors. Passionate about women’s rights, she was inspired to join Orchid Project in its mission to end FGC. She holds a BA in English from Birmingham University and has previously volunteered for organisations that focus on international development.
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.
Carolyn Esser is the Deputy Director of Communications for Europe and the Middle East at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is responsible for the foundation’s communications strategy in these regions, which seeks to raise awareness of the foundation and the initiatives that it supports and works closely with the government relations and advocacy functions to mobilise more and better resources for international development. Previously Carolyn was Global Communications Director at Logica, the FTSE 250 technology and business service company. She started her career in communications at Brunswick, the leading financial and corporate communications consultancy.
Emma McGuigan is Group Technology Officer of Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology Operating Group. She was formerly 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.
Orchid Project and our partners in the media: click on any title name to access the article.
BBC Woman’s Hour – Hibo Wardere, Orchid’s Associate, shares her experience from the Tostan Training Centre in Senegal
Senegalese Press Agency – Orchid supports 117 communities to declare abandonment of female genital cutting in Thiara, Kolda, Senegal
Reuters – “(…)Orchid Project lists 10 Asian countries and nine Middle Eastern countries where there is evidence FGM exists including Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia and Thailand.”
The Hindu – A coalition of 29 organisations have petitioned to the United Nations to end FGC by 2030
Devex – conversation with our Chief Executive and Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh
The Express Tribune – “Oh, it’s just a small cut so why are you complaining?”
VOA News – Cinema May Turn Tide Against Female Genital Mutilation
Reuters – Factbox: The hidden cut: female genital mutilation in Asia
Reuters – comment from our Chief Executive and Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh on FGC in Singapore
Huffington Post – interview with our Ambassador Jay K. Frederick on her new online network ‘Sisters Keeping It Moving’
Your Natural Beauty – our sponsor Organyc has been supporting us for over three years donating 5% from all product sales
The Guardian – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh comments on The Economist’s article which advocates a ‘lesser cut’
Evening Standard – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh awarded an OBE
OneWorld – comment from External Affairs Manager Oliver Chantler on the medicalisation of FGC and our work in Kenya
World Economic Forum – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh writes about how to end FGC within a generation
Mail Online – Our Director of Operations Ruth is quoted on mandatory reporting of FGC
Evening Standard – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia is named one of London’s thousand most influential people
International Business Times – interview with our External Affairs Manager Oliver Chantler
Speech by Justine Greening MP, UK Secretary of State for International Development, on the one year anniversary of the Girl Summit – mentions Orchid Project’s work to end FGC
IPPF Blog – External Affairs Manager Oliver Chantler writes about Orchid Project’s presence at the Funding for Development conference in Addis Ababa
Emirates Woman – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh is interviewed about FGC in the Middle East, and our ambassador Jay Kamara-Frederick tells her story and gives her views
Bustle – Comment from our Chief Executive and Founder on genital piercing
Voice of America – comment from our Chief Executive and Founder Julia on FGC in Malaysia
Al Jazeera – comment from our Chief Executive and Founder Julia on FGC in Thailand
Huffington Post – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia writes about FGC in a medical environment
CCTV America – UN day of awareness for female genital mutilation aims to end practice
LibDem Voice – Martin Horwood writes … Much more than a number
NPR – A Rap Star And A Therapist Fight Female Genital Mutilation
Ending Female Genital Cutting in our lifetime – our Chief Executive and Founder Julia’s blog for the UK’s Department for International Development
Mary Creagh, Huffington Post – We Have the Opportunity to Bring an End to FGM Within in the Next Generation
US Department of State Blog – Five powerful stories about FGM/C you need to hear
Daily Mail – Fears as more FGM cases identified
Toronto Star – Doctor in England on trial over female genital mutilation
Newsweek – Hospitals Increasingly Carrying Out Female Genital Mutilation Procedures
Katja Iverson, Huffington Post – The Gift That Keeps Giving and Benefits Us All
SAFE Magazine – 2014 List of Global Heroes (Sister Fa, page 81)
Cosmopolitan – Outrage as FGC cases are dropped in the UK
DR2 (Denmark) – Interview with Birgitte Handwerk of Orchid Denmark (28:42)
BT (Denmark) – Kronprinsesse Mary om omskæring: Forældre gør det af kærlighed til deres børn
AllAfrica – ECAW begin to give training to Kuria Elders in Kenya
Marie Claire (French edition) – Comment mettre fin aux mutilations génitales féminines ?
Pundit Fact – Revisiting Reza Aslan’s response to Bill Maher about female genital mutilation
Rebecca Tinsley, Huffington Post – Mary Did Not Have a Great “Day of the Girl Child”
The BMJ – Yvonne Obura: Female genital cutting—improving doctors’ awareness
i-D Magazine – Fighting FGM, fighting inequality, fighting for freedom?
Skoll World Forum – Working for a Generation of Girls Who Won’t be Cut
Cafe Communique – FGM: Generations of Cultural Perpetuation
Skoll Foundation – Tostan’s Work Shared at Reception During Girl Summit
DNES (Czech) – Drastická procedura mrzačí i ženy v Evropě
Thomson Reuters – Sister Fa: The rapper fighting FGM
Evening Standard – Government in £1m pledge to match funds for fighting FGM
The Salisbury Journal – Trainee doctor’s award from Prime Minister
The Guardian – FGM: two young women who woke up world and forced politicians to act
BBC Radio 5 Live – Live from the Girl Summit
Sky News Sunrise – Sister Fa live
ITV London – Report
Thomson Reuters – Rapper Sister Fa takes FGM campaign to Guinea
Third Sector Magazine – Both education and legal action are needed to tackle female genital mutilation in the UK
The Daily Mail – Doctor who told undercover reporter he could arrange female genital mutilation to be carried out on two girls aged 10 and 13 could be struck-off
Evening Standard – British girls flown to Singapore and Dubai for ‘medicalised’ FGM
Bloomberg – First Female Genital Cutting Case Exposes Ancient Ritual
BBC World News – FGC trial in Egypt
Sky News – FGC Legislation
Deutsche Welle – Landmark UK trial against FGM
The Backbencher – Female Genital Cutting Can End In A Generation
Evening Standard – The rich are harder to sway than the poor
CNN – VIDEO CNN: FGM No Tolerance Day
DR News – VIDEO Circumcision: UN Day against the painful ritual
DFID – Communities in Mali lead the way on 6th February
Washington Post – Mali communities denounce female genital cutting
SCWPCA – Marina Yannakoudakis Reports Back From Brussels
TVC News – Sister Fa Feature
The Reading Chronicle – Empowering change to end ‘cutting’ rituals
WHO January Bulletin – Slow progress in ending female genital mutilation
BBC Radio Scotland – Cutting Love
All Africa – Sénégal: Kolda – Déclaration d’abandon de l’excision à Medina Yero Foulah – Des communautés s’engagent
Urban Times – How Female Genital Cutting is Ending
The Evening Standard – Sarah Sands: We cannot lose the battle for liberal values
The Evening Standard – The Power 1000: artists, authors, designers, entrepreneurs and politicians gather to celebrate the capital’s Most Influential
The Evening Standard – FGM activist and rapper Sister Fa to appear at London African Music Festival
The Evening Standard – The Power 1000: FGC survivor will rap her message to London’s leaders
Bidisha, Huffington Post – Cutting Us Down To Size: Working to End Female Genital Mutilation
ITV News – 25,000 women in UK at risk of female genital mutilation
BBC World Service Newsday – Senegalese Rapper Sister Fa speaks against FGM
The Evening Standard – If I can reach young people through my music, no more girls will suffer FGM
The Evening Standard – Victim turns campaigner: woman who travels the land, using her own story to fight horror of female genital mutilation
The Evening Standard – Help us protect schoolgirls at risk in the FGM ‘cutting season’
The Evening Standard – Financier gives away £50,000 to help fight the scourge of FGM
The Evening Standard – Help us catch the female genital mutilation criminals cutting girls in London, says Yard
The Evening Standard – London charity helping to save African girls from mutilation
The Inquisitr – British Government Pledges Millions To End Female Genital Mutilation ‘In A Generation’
Orchid Project, Huffington Post – UK Government to Announce Historic Investment to End Female Genital Cutting
Orchid Project, Huffington Post – £35m Announced to Go to Ending Female Genital Cutting
The Guardian – UK funds aim to end female genital mutilation ‘in a generation’
The Daily Beast – David Cameron’s Ambitious Plan To End Female Genital Mutilation
DFID Blog – A UK led effort to end female genital cutting within a generation
Thomson Reuters – Senegal rap star says stop ‘cutting’ our girls
The Guardian– Sister Fa: African rapper with a cause
Spear’s – Lynne Featherstone, Minister for International Development, Speaks Out Against FGC
Spear’s – Dr Frederick Mulder on Supporting the Orchid Project to End FGC
The Sunday Express – ‘End vile practice of Female Genital Mutilation’ (December 16 2012)
The New York Times – ‘Queen Noor Expresses Hope on the Rights of Arab Women’ (December 4 2012)
The Observer – ‘One day, this evil practice of cutting girls will cease’ (November 25 2012)
The Daily Observer, the Gambia – ‘Orchid Project gives five motorcycles to Tostan’ (June 12 2012)
Voice of America – MP3 – ‘Health Chat’ Julia Lalla-Maharajh speaking on Voice of America about FGC (June 5 2012)
The Guardian – ‘Turning philanthropy into a spectator sport’ (May 31 2012)
Woman Alive – Women of the World (Spring 2012)
BBC Afrique – French language audio clip – (Feb 7th 2012)
BBC Woman’s Hour – Sister Fa (Feb 6th 2012)
BBC World Service Network Africa – audio clip – (Feb 6th 2012)
The Guardian Health Editor’s Blog – Sarah Boseley – (Feb 6th 2012)
The Big Issue – (Feb 6th 2012)
The Herald (Scotland) – (Feb 6th 2012)
Department for International Development – ‘A world free from female genital cutting‘ – (Feb 6th 2012)
DfID Podcast – Sister Fa on female genital cutting – (Feb 6th 2012)
2010 – 2011
Orchid Project Huffington Post
CNN Video ‘Connector of the Day’
If you are a journalist interested in learning more about FGC or would like to write an article on the subject, please contact us at [email protected]