Guest blog by Ruth Samuels.
The shock was audible. 900 women simultaneously gasping as the horrors of FGM reached their ears for the first time. Two years ago, Ann-Marie Wilson shared her vision for a world where women and girls live free of the threat of being cut with those women at New Wine’s women’s conference, Blaze 2012. The impact was instant: the women wanted to act. In a bold move, New Wine facilitators passed around a bucket so that donations to Ann-Marie’s cause could be made. Through each person giving what they could at the time, £9,000 was raised, and 28 Too Many took flight. The importance of the support that came from those 900 women has not been forgotten. “It was amazing! Without that [financial support], we wouldn’t be here today”, recalls Louise Robertson, 28 Too Many’s Communications and Campaigns Manager, at Blaze 2014.
Having the opportunity to engage with the women attending Blaze 2014 it became clear that, for the those attending, the fight against FGM hadn’t been forgotten either. Women came over to the 28 Too Many stand to speak to us, to tell us of their excitement at seeing awareness of FGM raised in the UK media, and to tell Ann-Marie that they were there two years before. Supporters often give Ann-Marie clippings from the newspapers when FGM has featured in an article. It was so encouraging to see that they were really passionate for change and knew that through their contribution – however big or small – they had helped 28 Too Many to make a difference, and they had seen it with their own eyes.
Coming straight in to Blaze 2014 from her travels in East Africa, Ann-Marie was able to update and inform supporters, old and new. As a result, more women have been inspired to act on behalf of women and girls who are vulnerable to FGM, both globally and in the UK. Students, midwives, health visitors and teachers, all wanting to do what they can to bring an end to FGM. And that’s the beauty of an event like Blaze – a diverse group of passionate women who want to change the world, brought together year after year to dream big dreams. Simple, yet effective.
A lot has happened in two years and for Ann-Marie the support that comes from New Wine is still very special, “It’s extraordinary that from New Wine women donating £9,000 two years ago we now have thirty volunteers, a board of trustees, first year [organisation] reports, and four detailed country reports on FGM. This could not have happened if not for that seed funding [from Blaze 2012].”
“It’s really helpful to have support, encouragement and prayer each year. People often ask me, ‘don’t you get lonely doing what you do?’, but it makes me feel supported and safe. I don’t feel alone”.