New campaign to Stop Female Genital Mutilation in Africa builds traction

Efua Dorkenoo – WNN Featured Editorial

Reconcilation Ceremony brings girls & mothers together without FGM
Masaai mothers in Kenya go through the ‘Reconciliation Ceremony’ as they celebrate the decision with their daughters to reject FGM. The Tasaru Rescue Center in the Narok region of Kenya now holds this yearly rite as a ‘rite of  passage’ ceremony instead for girls in the region under a program called the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative. Image: Paul Mununu

(WNN/EN) London, UK, WESTERN EUROPE: Writing about the global situation that continues to plague millions of girls worldwide, Program Director Ms. Efua Dorkenoo with the launch of The Girl Generation: Together To End FGM shares her belief that Female Genital Mutilation can be completely and fully eradicated around the globe within one generation.

But how can the push to protect these girls and completely stop FGM happen?

“The term ‘female genital mutilation’ (also called ‘female genital cutting’ and ‘female genital mutilation/cutting’) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world are estimated to have undergone such procedures, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year. Female genital mutilation has been reported to occur in all parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in: the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East and among certain immigrant communities in North America and Europe,” says the United Nations sponsored World Health Organization.

The reasons given for the procedure vary but some families say the custom will enable their daughters to “stay safe” and away from early sexual activity. It is also thought in some communities that FGM allows daughters to find an ‘approving’ husband once they have reached what a village considers to be marriageable age, since ancient local customs have pushed for girls’ virginity before marriage.

But modern customs are now changing as the parents of a new generation are beginning to drop FGM as a family ritual. Instead other rituals and rights of passage that are not physically abusive, and are instead empowering and affirming, are being encouraged by those who are working to stop FGM.

But there’s much more to go to stop FGM completely.

Sustainable outside funding along with a local community approach must be used, outlines Dorkenoo on the campaign to stop FGM throughout the African continent.

“…the only way we can deal with FGM is to bring the government into it, because FGM is child abuse. In terms of childcare law, it’s child abuse,” Dorkenoo shared with the public during a comprehensive December 6, 2013 TEDx event at University College London.

“Over the next ten years, more than 30 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM. After decades of work, momentum for change is growing. Across the African continent and around the world, people are coming together to abandon this form of violence against women and girls,” says the organizational leadership at The Girl Generation campaign.

Efua Dorkenoo shares below how setting up The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM can bring solution-based results to global regions that years ago had little education or resources to stop FGM:

The issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) requires urgent action: more than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM – the equivalent of Kenya’s entire population almost three times over. In the 29 countries in African and the Middle East where FGM is most concentrated, another 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the next decade. There is growing commitment to ending FGM across the African continent, with African leaders playing a crucial role in achieving the United Nations global ban on FGM in 2012.

Almost ten months ago, our small team – spread between Nairobi and London, and with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development – started work to develop a name and logo, with the aim of producing an umbrella identity that could help to rally and unite the growing Africa-led movement to end FGM.

Although the movement has been building for decades, it has never had a shared identity. Other human rights and public health campaigns of the last century have made huge progress by rallying around a common identity: we all know what the red ribbon stands for. A highly visible, shared identity can help bring activists from different backgrounds together, with a common sense of purpose, and push for change more effectively – from the global stage, to within their own communities and families.

Women hold banners in an outdoor Stop FGM rally in Somalia. Image: Equality Now

I am sometimes called ‘the mother of the campaign’ and I have worked in the field of ending FGM for thirty years. However, the process of developing the creative foundation for this global movement has been a real eye-opener for me. Supported by the team’s communications advisors and our colleagues at Ogilvy & Mather Africa and Advocacy International, we’ve experimented with numerous different names, shapes and colors over the last few months.

We have shared ideas and sought feedback from many people – particularly those on the ground in countries most affected by FGM. It has been a surprisingly long and complicated journey. To agree on an identity which satisfies numerous partners across the globe, and which embodies the vision of the global movement, has taken a lot of time, discussion, and creative energy.

But finally, The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM is here, and I hope you like it. I want to tell the story of how and why we arrived here.

We started out by bringing together a small group of ‘thought leaders’ from across the African continent who have first-hand experience and insights into working to end FGM. After all, this communications program exists to support the work of such tireless campaigners – to amplify their work, tell their stories, and attract additional resources so that work to end FGM can be scaled up. We felt strongly that their perspectives had to form the heart of the movement.

Together, they reached consensus about the core values that the movement’s identity should embody: positive change and trust, respect, knowledge, pride, courage, hope, joy, responsibility, and empowerment.

The name and design had to be simple, and easy to copy and reproduce. It had to invoke warm, positive feeling, and be adaptable to different national and local contexts. It also had to work in a variety of settings, languages, cultures and contexts. A tall order, indeed.

So why did the creative team finally come up with The Girl Generation? Firstly, it encompasses the overall aim – to end FGM in a Generation. It also puts the focus clearly on the ‘girl’, as in the majority of cases, it is the girl that needs to be protected against FGM – even though women can suffer from its effects in the long term. The tagline – Together to End FGM – reflects the vision of helping to galvanize an Africa-led global movement, working together for a common purpose.

Finally, why the triangle? It is a powerful, simple and replicable shape which appears in the art of all cultures. Triangles commonly appear on prints, patterns and textiles across the African continent. The Girl Generation triangle is soft and childlike in its rendering, reinforcing the name’s reference to girl/childhood. The color is fresh and youthful, and doesn’t have the harsh or controlling overtones of stronger primary colors.

The name and logo are just the beginning. The Girl Generation will support the global movement to end FGM over the next 4.5 years, bringing stories of change to a global audience, stimulating media campaigns, recruiting ambassadors, and mobilizing resources to help end FGM in one generation. To be part of this movement for change, and learn more about the Girl Generation:

Follow The Girl Generation on twitter @thegirlgen
Visit/Sign up on The Girl Generation website
Visit our Facebook page
Watch and Share our one-minute video (see below) “The Girl Generation: Together To End FGM”

The Girl Generation combines the expertise of human rights organizations, Equality Now and Forward, communications company Ogilvy & Mather Africa, with management and technical oversight by Options. It is funded by the UK Department for International Development.


On December 6th 2013 the first university in the UK to admit men and women on equal merit, University College London (UCL) hosted its first ever TEDxWomen event. In this talk, Ms. Efua Dorkenoo, program director for The Girl Generation: Together To End FGM speaks on the current impacts of FGM as she shares the ongoing efforts dedicated to eliminate this practice. Dorkenoo is also the former Advocacy Director for Equality Now and a founder of the Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development (FORWARD), a British charity that supports women who have experienced FGM,


“The Girl Generation: Together To End FGM”

Across the African continent and beyond, people are coming together to abandon FGM violence against women and girls. In ten separate African countries, The Girl Generation will support national communications and advocacy campaigns to drive social and behavioral change, starting with Kenya, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Launching on October 2014, The Girl Generation marks events for young people from a new generation in Nairobi, Kenya, and Banjul, the Gambia, and a side event in London. The goal is to provide a global platform to celebrate, and amplify the voices of those working to end FGM, particularly across the African continent. Images used in this film compliments of Arsenie Coseac, A.Gichigi and Abdurahman Warsame.


For more information on this topic:

Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Lessons from a Decade of Progress,” PRB (Population Reference Bureau) with USAID and IDEA, February 2014;

Female Genital Mutilation and Asylum in the European Union: A Statistical Update (March 2014),” RefWorld, UNHCR – UN Refugee Agency, 2014.


Program Director for ‘The Girl Generation: Together To End FGM’ Efua Dorkenoo is a trained bio-social scientist in public health and an honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Health Sciences at City University, London. Starting in the early 1980s, her pioneering work on FGM has contributed to the international recognition of FGM as a public health and a human rights issue. From 1995-2001, she worked as the United Nations (WHO) World Health Organization’s first technical expert at their Geneva headquarters and assisted the organization in introducing FGM as one of the topic agendas for the Ministries of Health with the international WHO Member States. Ms. Dorkenoo is also an awardee of the British State Honours known as the OBE (Order of the British Empire) given by the British Queen in recognition of her work as the founder of the UK non-governmental organization FORWARD in 1983 and for her campaigning work against FGM. In 2000, along with Gloria Steinem, she received Equality Now’s international human rights award for her lifelong activism on the issue of women’s rights. Ms. Dorkenoo’s book, Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation, The Practice and its Prevention (Minority Rights Publications 1994), was considered a first on FGM and was selected by an international jury for inclusion on the 2002 prestigious book list, “Africa 100 Best Books for the 20th Century.”

The introduction for this story has been provided by the editors at WNN – Women News Network.


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