Following the end of the UKAid funding for The Girl Generation in January 2019, efforts are underway to secure new partners and investors so that the programme can continue supporting the Africa-led movement to end FGM. Last week, youth representatives and The Girl Generation leadership travelled to London to share the programme’s successes, and explore opportunities with donors, partners and diaspora stakeholders, for supporting young people across Africa to unleash their potential to end FGM in one generation.
Co-hosted by Options, The Girl Generation and the Wallace Global Fund, the event celebrated youth leadership in ending FGM, and looked at what a future youth-focussed ‘end FGM programme’ might look like.
Speaking at the event, Ellen Dorsey Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund commented, “There’s something extraordinary going on in the world at the moment - there’s a youth movement. We saw the climate change [school strikers] and I think there’s something similar going on with youth leaders in the end FGM movement.”
This is the time to act.
These sentiments were echoed by Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell, Global Director for The Girl Generation, who noted “With nine end FGM youth networks across Africa, this is the opportunity for us to galvanize young people as they have the power to end FGM in their generation. We can all be part of a legacy that ends FGM in this life time.”
Liza Akinyi, M&E Manager for The Girl Generation based in Kenya, spoke in a panel discussion with other young African campaigners, emphasising the strength of the youth movement. “Young people want to unify their voices and harness their potential,” she said. “The future is no longer tomorrow, the future is now, and young people want to take action. We just need to support them.”
The youth leaders reflected on the progress made over the last four years and stressed the importance of keeping young campaigners central to the Africa-led movement.
When asked “Why young people?”, Peter Macharia, a youth activist from Kenya replied, “Well, it’s young people who suffer the most with FGM, so we must make a movement where they are creating the solutions”. His sentiments were echoed by other members of the panel, with Nigerian activist Chiamaka Uzomba, adding, “Changes need to come from within the community. We’re having conversations with communities now, rather than telling them what to do.”
The Girl Generation has galvanised young voices, uniting them to maximise their impact. Dr. Mwangi-Powell shared a story from Nigeria, where youth activists had seen a cutter advertising the practice online. Young people mobilised to persuade the cutter to give up the trade and even join the end FGM movement. When given support and guidance, young people have used their voices to successfully halt the practice, bringing the tipping point to end FGM ever closer.
Delegates were eager to make concrete plans to maintain the movement’s momentum, discussing problems facing youth activists and issues in need of greater support. Cross-collaboration, further resources, increased involvement of young people in decision-making, and expanding campaigners’ skills and capacity were all seen as vital to drive the movement forward. Campaigners’ mental health and physical safety was also cited as a priority, with calls for an expansion to the Emotional Wellbeing project developed by Dr Leyla, Global Ambassador for The Girl Generation. The programme addresses mental health and self-care for frontline campaigners of the end FGM movement.
After these discussions, activism met art at the evening session. A selection of photographs from the ‘Face of Defiance’ exhibition, depicting empowered survivors and activists, attracted significant attention. Engaging spoken-word and musical performances were also heard from members of the Vavengers, a creative arts charity raising money for end-FGM causes. A final speech from Dr. Mwangi-Powell reflected on progress made in ending FGM, whilst reaffirming that more help is needed and that there is work left to be done.
“One day, when you sit down with your great-great-grandchildren, you can tell them there was something called FGM – and then you can tell them that you were part of the movement that ended that practice.”