“Some communities in East Africa are abandoning FGM and our research helps to identify what is happening and how we ensure that we learn from these successes and end FGM across the region,” says Dr Ann-Marie Wilson, Executive Director of anti-FGM charity 28 Too Many.
Dr Wilson is a psychologist and training consultant who has dedicated over 20 years working with individuals, teams & organisations. After a successful career in business, she decided to work in international development and over the last 10 years has worked with emergency relief, rehabilitation and development agencies in 13 countries.
After learning about female genital mutilation (FGM) while working in Sudan in 2004, she founded anti-FGM charity 28 Too Many and campaigns internationally to end this harmful practice and other forms of violence against women and girls. She is a member of the UK Home Office Vulnerable Groups Forum and has worked with the UK Department for International Development as it scopes its pledge of £35m to end FGM. She has written four academic papers on FGM and presented internationally on her research of FGM.
Ann-Marie is in East Africa from 8th February to 1st March 2014 visiting Kampala, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa to share her pioneering work to end FGM. During her visit she will be meeting anti-FGM campaigners and advocates for women’s health and rights. She will also be attending the CMS Africa conference in Kenya.
“This trip will allow me to engage with representatives from forty organisations working in various ways to eliminate FGM, other harmful traditional practices and violence against women and children. My aim is that we identify ways we can work together across borders to share best practice and move faster to end FGM”.
During 2013 28 Too Many completed detailed country profiles on FGM in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Whilst showing good progress in some areas, including significant decreases in the prevalence of FGM in women aged 15-49 in Kenya and Ethiopia, this important new research also confirms that FGM remains a widespread practice.
On the 6th February 2014, I interviewed Ann-Marie about her forthcoming trip:
What is the purpose of your trip to East Africa?
The trip allows us to evaluate how the research undertaken by 28 Too Many is being used. It allows us to establish if prior research into FGM is still fragmented and how future research should be carried out and used. Prior to the country profiles little was known about what many activists and organisations were doing to combat FGM within communities. The visit will allows us to examine further what activists were doing providing a richer data.
How will your work in East Africa benefit the overall goals of 28 Too Many?
28 Too Many is working to end FGM. Our primary focus is on research and enabling local initiatives in the 28 African countries where it is practised and across the diaspora. We also network and advocate for the global elimination of FGM, working closely with other charities/NGOs in the violence against women sector. Through liaising with different bodies like Government Ministries, religious organisations, charities and those who represent women and girls who have been effected by FGM, it allows us to work and plan further action to be taken to eliminate the practice. By following up on how our country profiles have been used we will be able to see what further work needs to be done to address specific challenges being faced in different regions and communities across East Africa. We will be able to see whether different organisations, NGO’s and activists agree with the recommendations from the country profiles and whether the trends identified in the reports are accurate. It is important to remember that the country profiles produced by 28 Too Many were pilot reports and by liaising with the people and organisations that they were intended to be used by, we will have the opportunity to receive feedback and to learn what the different bodies need or want.
How could the findings from this trip change 28 Too Many’s strategies?
Through working with the different bodies that use the country profiles we can see if priorities in different areas need to be adjusted in order to address the tradition of FGM. Strategies being employed may not work across all regions and countries in Africa and we can examine what approaches have been successful and why. We will also be given the opportunity to evaluate what strategies work in theory but not necessarily in practice. From this we want to work with local partners to develop plans for how 28 Too Many can help networking, capacity building and ensure information about FGM is effectivelt share and disseminated.
From our research we know that with the right support and interventions FGM can be eradicated but this requires strong leadership, long term action plans and sustained funding. If this happens there is a good reason to hope that future generations of girls and women will live free from FGM. This trip allow us to see where funding has been and can be best used.
Ann-Marie will be keeping us informed of her actions and progress via twitter and facebook.