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 many trusts and foundations including:
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 is a member of…
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 Lalla-Maharajh OBE, CEO & Founder
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.
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.
Kimberly Ellis, Fundraising Officer
Kimberley joined Orchid Project in January 2019 and shares responsibility of donor relationships and fundraising. Previously, Kimberley has managed projects that address inequality and violence in Higher Education and local community spheres, and has led research into antisocial behavior and hate-motivated violence against minority groups within the University Sector. She is impassioned to accelerate and enrich the movement to end FGC, through stewarding and connecting with funders.
Saada Ibrahim, Office Administrator
Saada joined Orchid Project
Lola Godeau, Programmes Assistant
Lola joined Orchid Project in November 2018 to support our Programmes team. She provides operational support to the department, whilst engaging with both the knowledge sharing and partner support elements of programmes, and assisting with monitoring and evaluation activities. She gained experience in programme design and advocating for women’s rights both with UN Women and at the Wonder Foundation. She worked extensively on FGC research during her MSc. (Hons.) in Law and Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where she researched the role of law in British anti-cutting campaigns. She holds a BSc (Hons.) in Anthropology from University College London.
Giorgio Mariani, Senior Development Manager
Giorgio joined Orchid Project in February 2018 and is responsible for developing and managing Orchid Project’s relationships with a variety of funding partners, from major donors to institutional and governmental funders. Giorgio has worked in the international development space for several years, previously working as Programme Partnerships Manager at Fairtrade Foundation. He is passionate about helping to build a wide and rich movement including funders, campaigners, donors, and implementing partners, all working together to end FGC across the world. Giorgio holds an MSc in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and a BA in Politics from Queen Mary University of London.
Clodagh McCarthy, Senior 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.
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.
Ebony Riddell Bamber, Head of Advocacy & Policy
Ebony joined Orchid Project in January 2019 and leads Orchid Project’s international policy and advocacy work aimed at ending FGC. Ebony has over 15 years experience in international human rights and development, including leading global advocacy and campaigns for PEN International, Health Poverty Action, Save the Children and Amnesty International. She has also spent time working in social policy, community engagement and equalities in the UK and Brazil. Ebony is passionate about women’s rights, social justice and community empowerment and is a professor of capoeira (Brazilian dance/art form). She holds a MA in Human Rights from Birkbeck College, University of London.
Samina Yaqub, Senior Operations Manager
Samina joined Orchid Project in November 2018 and is responsible for HR, financial reporting, compliance and operations management. She has 20 years experience working in the third sector, mainly in the field of Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) and is committed to social justice and human rights. She has always been inspired to work towards ending gender inequality therefore was drawn to Orchid Project’s commitment to ending FGC in our lifetime. She holds a BA in Social Policy & Administration.
Birgitte Zachau Handwerk, Fundraiser and COO for Orchid Project’s Danish association
Birgitte heard Julia, Founder of Orchid Project, speak when Orchid Project was still not officially an NGO. Birgitte was inspired by Julia’s vision of a world free from FGC, and so helped set up Orchid Project and later on started the Danish association of Orchid Project with a group of like-minded Danish supporters. Birgitte has been part of developing Orchid Project’s strategy and projects from the beginning and has been fundraising for and visiting programmatic work in Kenya and Senegal since 2011. Apart from being Orchid Project’s representative and spokesperson in Denmark, Birgitte works as COO for a Danish Conference agency. Birgitte holds a Masters in accounting and auditing and has worked in the advertising business for many years.
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.
Mette Hoffmann Meyer is a Danish CEO and co-founder of The Why Foundation, a non-profit, Peabody Award-Winning organisation striving to ensure that all people have free access to independent
information. The Why Foundation produces and distributes media content dealing with human rights
and sustainable development, reaching hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Mette has
worked with documentary film for nearly 30 years, and is the former Head of Documentaries and Co-
Productions at the Danish public service broadcaster Danmarks Radio. She is now focusing on
modern-day slavery, as the campaign WHY SLAVERY?.
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.
Carole Presern is Head of the Office of Board Affairs at the Global Fund to fight AIDs, TB and Malaria. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health based out of WHO, which she joined after working at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Up until 2008 she worked for many years for the UK Department For International Development (DFID) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), at the UK Mission in Geneva, and also for long periods in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Nepal. Carole has served on the Boards of the Global Fund, UNAIDS, WHO, and humanitarian agencies in her FCO/DFID role. She also served for many years on the Board of the HIV Alliance. Carole started her career as a nurse and midwife, working in a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border. She has a PhD in Public Health Policy, and graduate education in Anthropology and Health Systems Management.