2019 has been a year of catalytic action and change at Orchid Project and of progress for our partners around the world. In the last 12 months, we made significant steps in our mission to end female genital cutting (FGC). We’re looking back over the year to celebrate our successes and look towards our 2020 goals.
As an organisation that’s accelerating the movement to end FGC, Orchid Project has seen some shining moments in global advocacy spaces this year, supported momentous milestones through our grassroots partners who are supporting affected communities to abandon the cut, and platformed activists and changemakers who’re blazing a trail and breaking the silence on FGC.
Join us as we reflect on some key highlights from what we’ve achieved this year, and thank the champions and changemakers we work with around the world.
Orchid Project in 2019
- In Loita Hills, Kenya, 3,000 people from the Maasai community gathered on the International Day to End FGC, 6th February, to witness the blessing of an Alternative Rite of Passage to the cut. This follows nearly a decade of work by our partner SAFE Kenya, and the occasion was a key milestone as the community bore witness to a historic declaration of FGC abandonment. Read the reflections of our Founder, Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE who attended the Loita declaration >
- In Hargeisa, Somaliland, Orchid brought actors from multiple sectors together to share knowledge and best practice on ending the cut. One participant, Muse Jama Essa from WORDA, gave his insights into his learning and how to shift the social norm in Somaliland. Read our interview with Muse >
- Discussing a global end to FGC, we hosted a live panel on Facebook with activists and representatives from the global movement to end the practice. Marking the International Day to End FGC, our Communications Manager hosted Wairimu Munyinyi Wahome, Executive Director of COVAW, Mariya Taher, Co-Founder of Sahiyo, and Siva Thanenthiran, Executive Director of ARROW in an informative, lively conversation. Watch now >
- Three inspiring campaigners went to Senegal to learn about community-led change and social norms change at seminar at the Tostan Training Centre, sponsored by Orchid. Hoda Ali from the UK, Christine Ghati from Kenya, and Olachi Peace Ojimadu from Nigeria traveled to Thiès where they were immersed in 10-days of learning alongside changemakers from around the world. Each activist has gone on to implement the lessons they learned, to end cutting within their communities. Read more about Hoda Ali’s experience, in this op ed she wrote for the Thomson Reuters Foundation >
- Orchid Project hosted a Knowledge Sharing Workhop in Samburu, Kenya, co-facilitated by SAFE Samburu and bringing a further eight community-based organisations working to end cutting. Exploring the best practice framework, UNICEF’s Six Elements of Abandonment, we worked together to look at social norms-based approaches to ending the practice. Veronica Lelueta, project manager for SAFE Samburu, and facilitator of the workshop, reflected on her own experiences and how FGC can end in her community. Read more >
- We launched a new website, complete with a dedicated resource centre, which houses over 600 articles, reports, guidelines, tools and pieces of research all related to FGC. Orchid’s new website is a hub for information about FGC and how it can end, putting stories of grassroots change at the forefront. Explore our site >
- Together with our Malaysia-based partner, ARROW, Orchid Project announced that we will be co-nurturing a new Asia Network to End FGM/C. Cutting is practised in many more countries than the 30 that report national-level data, including countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, India, Singapore and the Maldives. This launch was a key first step towards building a vibrant, grassroots network to stimulate and support the movement across Asia. Read more >
- Sahiyo launched the “Faces for Change” photo campaign, which Orchid Project was proud to sponsor alongside Equality Now and Global Health Strategies. Launching in Mumbai, the exhibition is the first of it’s kind to feature survivors of FGC from Asia. Read more about the campaign in this interview with filmmaker and Sahiyo Co-Founder, Insia Dariwala >
- Orchid Project was a key convener of the FGC sector at the largest gender equality conference, Women Deliver 2019, in Vancouver, Canada. Alongside survivors, civil society, activists and allies, we were part of a watershed moment, in which the sector came together at a pre-conference event, “Uniting forces to make FGM/C a practice of the past”. From this event, read the global call to action >
- We welcomed our new CEO, Grethe Petersen, formerly of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, to join the Orchid Project team, as Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE transitions to a new role as Ambassador for our charity, starting in January 2020. Grethe brought her deep commitment to the rights of women and girls, and a passion to end FGC. Read the announcement >
- Our Founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE travelled to New York to attend the UN General Assembly alongside Grethe Petersen, where Julia’s contribution to the movement to end cutting was recognised with the 2019 Break The Silence Susan Gibbs Ally Award from There Is No Limit Foundation. Find out more >
- Nigerian activist Olachia Peace Ojimadu (Ola) shared her work at the grassroots with Orchid Project, 6 months after we sponsored her to visit Senegal and learn from our partner Tostan’s approach to ending the practice. Ola said the community-led approach resonated most with her work: “How you approach a community or individual will change your access to them, from young people to religious leaders.” Read the full interview >
- We launched the Global Platform for Action to End FGM/C; a united call to action and unprecedented forum that was co-created by civil society, survivors, activists and allies. This was the result of collaboration at Women Deliver 2019, in partnership with representatives and organisations from around the world. The Call to Action has over 500 signatories to date. Find out more and sign up today >
- The Orchid team travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, to the International Conference on Population Development, 25 years on from the 1994 Cairo ICPD, where we hosted an event alongside our grassroots partners COVAW, Tostan and SAFE, as well as AMREF Health Africa, Girls Not Brides, the Kenyan Anti-FGM Board and Murua Girl Child Education Programme. Focusing on “Partnerships for Change to End FGM/C”, the event saw lively discussion and collaboration, as well as sharing of stories of change and best practice. Read reflections from our Head of Advocacy & Policy, Ebony Riddell Bamber >
- To round off the #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, we marked Human Rights Day by hosting the second of two live Facebook discussions. Our Communications Manager, Miranda Dobson, and Advocacy & Policy Officer, Lo Riches, spoke to Program Officer from Tostan, Godfrey Okumu, about rights-based approaches to end FGC at the grassroots. Catch up on the live discussion here >
- Across the year, we posted 1,000 messages about FGC and ending the practice across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, raising awareness about the issue. We now have over 17,000 followers on social media, with more than 1,700 of you joining us this year. Our posts reached 1.2 million people and garnered 45,000 engagements. On Instagram, you’ve brought our following up to over 1,000 people. Thank you for supporting Orchid, and if you don’t already, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date with all our news, stories and campaigns.
2020 presents exciting opportunities to further our mission to end FGC in a generation, and we’re looking forward to continued partnership, collaboration and persistence across the global movement. Thank you for supporting and following our and our partners’ progress. Together, we stand with a movement that is accelerating an end to FGC everywhere.