Saturday, 9 January 2010

A finalist to get to Davos!

Please visit here: and vote for me to go to Davos.

This is the opportunity I've been dreaming about.

When I made my pitch to Davos, via YouTube, things were cut due to time constraints.

My ardent belief, which keeps me awake at night, is that this topic MUST be debated in the mainstream. This is what Davos offers: a space where business leaders, politicians, scientists, religious leaders, cultural gurus and the media meet. Every single one of these has a part to play in ending FGM.

It also aligns with my personal philosophy, having "grown up" in a career where the partnership between business, government and civil society was the only way to effect lasting change.

My thinking is straightforward. The overall objective is to end female genital mutilation within the next generation. I believe that at the moment there are three main needs:
  • raise global awareness;
  • get decision makers to increase resources and funding;
  • get this money to communities on the ground.

There are many proven interventions, that advocate working with communities to ensure that their voices are heard. The best model for this is modelled on social change theory - I've discussed it before here and it comes from UNICEF/Innocenti research.

To access this, go to this link:

You'll see many documents about abandonment strategies. These have been operating in communities in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea - where prevelance is well over 80%. I've copied a UNICEF press release later in this post, to outline their position. However, whilst UNICEF have the model, what is lacking is the massive implementation that this needs to allow change to happen. You will see that the press release is dated November 2005 - almost five years old. Yes, there is some gradual change in some communities, but it is not enough.

It is also not UNICEF's job alone. Changing FGM is going to require a massive shift in positions to swing a pendulum back towards allowing women more access to decide their own futures and self-autonomy. In this, everyone has a role - communities, civil society, governments, legal bodies, regional committees and international interests. Even business has a role to play.

So this is why you must send me to Davos - so that I can make that case volubly, stand in front of those who have their hands on various levers of power and help them decide to shift and pull together to make change happen.

I believe that's in my gift. Please help me get there.


UNICEF Press release - 24 November 2005

Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) affects far more women than previously thought. Recent data reveal that an estimated three million girls and women are cut each year on the African continent (Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan). This harmful practice is a fundamental violation of girls’ and women’s human rights.

• FGM/C is becoming a global problem. Not only is FGM/C practiced among communities in Africa and the Middle East, but with increased population movements and migration, FGM/C is also an issue in immigrant communities throughout the world.

• Real social change is a lengthy and complex process. Still, there is every reason to be optimistic that with global support, FGM/C can be ended within a single generation. This is possible because we understand the elements needed to accelerate the abandonment of the practice within practicing communities.

• Never before has the global community had such a refined understanding of why FGM/C persists. FGM/C ensures a girl’s or woman’s status, marriageability, chastity, health, beauty and family honour. This deeply entrenched social and cultural tradition is so powerful that even when families are aware of the harm it can bring, they are willing to have their daughters cut.

• A number of promising initiatives are supporting communities to abandon FGM/C in Africa and the Middle East. The most successful guide communities to define the problems and solutions themselves. They encourage people to engage in non-judgemental public discussion. They equip families with knowledge on human rights and responsibilities. They encourage communities who have made the decision to abandon the practice to spread their message to their neighbours

• Communities cannot end FGM/C without support. In order to end FGM/C on a large scale and across countries, communities need to be supported through legislative and policy measures, fora for public debate, and culturally sensitive media messages. They also need support from religious leaders and other opinion makers.

• Engaging adolescents and young people is critical to promote the abandonment of the practice. Through meaningful participation, adolescents develop the tools they need to make decisions that affect their own lives and to break vicious cycles, including gender discrimination and violence, which are passed down from one generation to the next.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Honouring those killed, on the FGM frontlines

The recent news about Uganda passing legislation to outlaw FGM fills me with hope. Whilst laws can only be as strong as their enforcement, the messages this sends is a powerful one.

The link below is to a case study from a group that worked with the Sabiny people in 2002 - partly to show how far we've come in eight years, but also to show how entrenched this issue is in communities.

Somehow reading about the killings of the district official and the husband of the project co-ordinator because of their stance on FGM makes me feel that tribute has to be paid. Without them, we may not be where we are today. Sadly they are not named. It would have been nice to honour their memory.

The entire case study is on p35 of the Global Consultation on FGM/C, UNFPA, 2008

Here's to those who fight on the frontline against FGM, in spite of intimidation, in spite of violence, in spite of being ostracised for what you do. And for those of you who've died for the cause - well. There aren't really words, are there?

Happy New Year!

As the snow flutters down outside, inside, frenetic activity with the sudden realisation that my entry to the Davos competition may pay dividends.

Or then again, it may not. But at the end of the day, what's important is the trying....

It has really forced me to look at what outcomes I really want from this campaign. The end game is too simple for words. End FGM. Now. I think that says it all. Of course, there's a whole list of objectives that then can help with saying how to achieve that.

What strikes me today in my reading and clarifying is two things:

1) I can't find anywhere the global spend on FGM. My business training has taught me to find out where the money is and follow it. This is easier said than done in this situation. Anecdotally, I have a $44mn over 10 years figure, but cannot find the breakdown of that. And that's globally.

2) The UN inter-agency statement 2008 says that "The UN agencies confirm their commitment to support governments, communities and the women and girls concerned to achieve the abandonment of female genital mutilation within a generation."

But nowhere does it define what a generation is, or an end date. Would we get away with that in the corporate sector?

So without knowing the quantum of money being spent on FGM, over what term, how is it possible to assess the outcomes?

This whole debate needs to be so much sharper.

So, I turn back to drafting a holding page for, again with a few day's notice (and my huge thanks to Sam Deeks and Julian Burton at

Thanks again to Mike Brett at who helped me film the YouTube piece.

That's all for now - the next 36 hours should be revealing - if I'm in the top 5, all systems go!

If not, well, then I guess I live to fight another day. Hard to see which way it will go....