• The Girl Generation

Ending FGM: paying tribute to a powerful female leader

Friday, 11 Oct 2019
On this year’s International Day of the Girl, I want to pay tribute to a very special woman who is dedicated to helping the next generation of girls to have better lives and more opportunities.

She has also inspired me, educated me on leadership and become a trusted friend and life-long mentor. Faith Mwangi-Powell will be mortified that I have written a blog about her, but she is one of my heroes and no one deserves a public thanks more than her.

By the time I met her, Faith already had a formidable track record in public health and leadership of complex health programmes across Africa. She was appointed as Global Director for The Girl Generation (TGG) in 2015, an African-led movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Working with her as a Global Ambassador for the programme over the last 4 years has been a true honour and changed my own approach to work.

Faith is an expert in her field and brought great knowledge and compassion to her role at TGG, along with a much-needed sense of humour given the challenges of working to end FGM. She also values the skills and knowledge of everyone in her team and taught me how to lead without always being at the forefront. Working on a high-profile campaign can be physically and mentally exhausting at times, but Faith was always there to guide and mentor to me and many others. She was our biggest cheerleader, and worked tirelessly to ensure that young Africans were the driving force for TGG’s work and that their voices were heard. 

This also involved securing funding to directly support grassroot activists in Africa - Faith needed all her leadership skills and bravery to achieve that, and to challenge the usual top-down approach to advocacy. But she knew that these were the people who had the greatest potential to make a difference and who could, with support, make fast progress to protect girls at risk of FGM and change attitudes to stop this abuse. Faith’s commitment to this vision resulted in TGG’s End FGM Grassroots Fund which delivered change across Africa via small organisations that are working on the frontline with communities to deliver change. This work has already saved the lives of thousands of girls and is an essential step in building capacity and skills to end FGM at a local level.

I also thank Faith for her bravery in supporting my vision to promote and protect the emotional wellbeing of activists working to end FGM, which was key in developing the pioneering emotional wellbeing toolkit in TGG with the activists working on the frontline who after all are the experts on the challenges they face.

I am delighted that Faith will continue to be a leading voice in the campaign for girls’ rights and welfare in her new role as Chief Executive Office at Girls Not Brides. There is still so much to do to ensure that all girls can live free from harmful practices like FGM and forced marriage that there is great need for strong and powerful advocates like Faith. I thank her for her incredible work, her mentorship and friendship, and I look forward continuing the movement to end FGM, and to meeting up for regular catch-ups, laughs and cups of tea!

Written by Dr. Leyla  Hussein OBE (Global Ambassador for The Girl Generation, Founder of the Dahlia project, Co-Founders of Daughters of Eve and Chief Executive of Hawa's Haven)

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