Small grants make a big difference in campaign to end FGM

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018
Since 2016, The Girl Generation has awarded grants to grassroots groups working to end Female Genital Mutilation. As the only small grants scheme working for this cause, The Grassroots Fund has received positive feedback through its support of small groups at the forefront of the End FGM campaign.

The Girl Generation released the mid-term report for their flagship Grassroots Fund programme last week, with positive results. The report evaluates the initiative, gathering feedback from participants to assess how successful the fund has been in delivering change. The findings suggest that the programme has been beneficial, with grantees reporting that thanks to the Fund’s support, they have been able to expand their programmes and increase their impact in local communities.

The Grassroots Fund is unique in its approach, as it focuses on small, community-based groups working towards ending FGM. “Larger organisations apply, but they have access to donors” one Programme Officer explains, “so we focus on the smaller organisations.” Grants were given to community organisations, many of whom had never received funding before, and would not have been eligible, or able, to access the overly-complex application procedures often found in larger funds. Instead, by awarding small allocations of financial support, the Fund is able to aid a wide variety of community groups, who can mould The Girl Generation’s End FGM campaign to suit their local area. This can be highly effective, as grassroots organisations are more attuned to their community and are frequently better placed to persuade people to reject FGM, than a larger, external body would be.

The Hope Foundation for African Women (HFAW) was one of the programmes to benefit from the grant. The Kenyan organisation was created to empower women at a grassroots level and end FGM. Founder, Grace Okong’o was inspired after attending an education course in Chile, that focused on Popular Education – the idea that by using participatory strategies and collective action, women can become equal participants in their families and communities. Having benefited from the course, Okong’o then took six more women from the community to Chile for training, starting a cascade effect, as they shared the lessons they learned on their return to Kenya. The women ended FGM in the Kissii community, and Okong’o’s HFAW group has since trained 30 End FGM advocates to further disseminate information, to dissuade people from performing FGM.  

The Girl Generation’s Grassroots Fund has helped continue and expand the work of HFAW. The organisation now runs training sessions in five sub-counties in Kenya, including areas like Nyamira county, where FGM prevalence is as high as 84.4%. “I used to be a circumciser, but I stopped” explained one attendee at a training session, “Through the education I got, I realised the health consequences FGM poses.” HFAW creates platforms to discuss FGM, going into schools to facilitate dialogues with teachers and students. One youth leader who had taken part in HFAW’s sessions, felt compelled to further spread the End FGM message following the training. “If I am to turn back the hands of time, I would never be circumcised with the knowledge I now have,” she said. “Since it is already done, I take up the duty to educate others about FGM.”

Alongside offering a platform to discuss FGM and its effects, HFAW has been able to empower women economically. They have run skill sessions to enable women to generate an independent income, training participants in keeping livestock, vegetable farming, and brickmaking. They have also launched their own financial aid scheme, lending money at a low interest rate to women from the community. This upscaling of HFAW and its initiatives has been made possible in part by the financial support of the Grassroots Fund.

Reflecting on two years of the scheme, the Global Director of The Girl Generation, Dr Faith Mwangi-Powell, commented on its success: “[By] Delivering much-needed support to small organisations, we are reaching a wide-range of actors on a community level to bring about societal change.”

The report published last week, calls for a continuation and expansion of the Fund, to finance further projects and build capacity to increase documentation of social change. Looking to the future, Mwangi-Powell echoes these calls for greater investment, stressing the scope for the Fund to do more, “There are many more organisations that we could support – organisations that play an essential role in ending FGM”.

Since the first grants were awarded in 2016:

  • Grantees have worked with over 68,000 people in person to end FGM
  • Over 1.7 million radio listeners have heard end FGM messages, dramas and discussions, primarily in local languages, as a result of our grants
  • $1.6 million has been awarded, through 153 small grants (an average of c.$10,500 per grant)
  • Grants have been awarded in eight countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Somaliland, Sudan, The Gambia, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso
  • Seventeen travel grants have been awarded to activists, to ensure that grassroots activists play a central role in the global end FGM movement
  • 49 grantee organisations have been trained in child safeguarding, so they can work more effectively and responsibly in communities to end FGM
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