About Us

Orchid Project are an NGO catalysing the global movement to end female genital cutting (FGC). FGC is a human rights violation that harms the lives of girls, women and their communities. Orchid Project partner with pioneering grassroots organisations around the world, and share knowledge and best practice to accelerate change. Orchid Project also advocate among governments and global leaders to ensure work to end FGC is prioritised.

Together, we can create a world free from FGC.

Read our 2020 – 2023 Strategy to learn more about our priorities and how we aim to achieve them. 

Anush Aghabalyan
Head of Policy and Advocacy

Anush joined Orchid Project in June 2021 from her role as the Director of Global Campaigns at the United for Global Mental Health. Prior to that, Anush spent 7 years at the largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) as the Head of Advocacy and External Relations. In WAGGGS she led the global advocacy work and the oversight of the global Stop the Violence campaign that reached over 70 countries. Her previous roles were mostly within the United Nations family, focusing on gender equality and labour migration. At Orchid Project, Anush oversees policy, advocacy and communications work. She is passionate about girls’ rights and empowerment and social justice.

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Paresh Dodhia
Head of Finance & Operations

Paresh is responsible for delivering the Finance, HR, Operations and Safeguarding functions at Orchid Project. He is a member of the Senior Management Team and Company Secretary to Orchid Project. Paresh is a Qualified Chartered Accountant with over 15 years in the non-profit sector. He is passionate about delivering a responsive function, working collaboratively with others to deliver Orchid Project’s vision. Prior to joining Orchid Project, Paresh was Finance Controller at Education & Training Foundation and previous to that Head of Finance at Humanity & Inclusion UK for over 6 years, where he lead the team to deliver Finance, Tax Compliance, Procurement, Office & IT. Paresh was also member of the Internal audit team to HI UK’s project in South Sudan and networked with the Bond contracts working group.

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Kimberley Ellis
Fundraising Officer

Kimberley joined Orchid Project in January 2019 and shares responsibility of donor relationships and fundraising. Previously, Kimberley has managed projects that address inequality and violence in Higher Education and local community spheres, and has led research into antisocial behavior and hate-motivated violence against minority groups within the University Sector. She is impassioned to accelerate and enrich the movement to end FGC, through stewarding and connecting with funders.

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Saada Ibrahim
Finance & Operations Manager

Saada joined Orchid Project in August 2018 and plays a critical support role across all departments. She has several years of administrative experience working in the international development sector. Passionate about human rights, she was inspired to join Orchid Project in its mission to end FGC. She holds a BA in Development Studies from Admas University (1st honours) and has previously worked for Axiom International Ltd as Project Assistant where she coordinated an international meeting on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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Clodagh McCarthy

Clodagh is an experienced senior programmes lead with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organisation management industry. Working as a consultant for Orchid Project now, Clodagh was Orchid’s Head of Programmes. Prior to joining Orchid Project, she gained experience in programme design and monitoring and evaluation as Senior Programmes Manager with Restless Development. She is passionate about girl’s empowerment, youth participation and youth engagement in data and accountability.

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Grethe Petersen, CEO of Orchid Project
Grethe Petersen
Chief Executive Officer

Grethe joined Orchid Project in August 2019, from her role as Programme Director, Impact Investment at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). Prior to this, Grethe led the Policy & Advocacy team at CIFF where, amongst other things, she led the establishment and management of the SheDecides support unit at CIFF to campaign for women’s rights. Prior to her roles with CIFF, Grethe spent nine years with Marie Stopes International (MSI), latterly as Regional Director, East and Southern Africa where she led a team of 2,100 people and held a budget of £57 million. Previous roles at MSI included Director for the Prevention of Maternal Deaths from Unwanted Pregnancy and Ethiopian Country Director, based in Addis Ababa for three years. Grethe received an MBA from UC Berkeley in California.

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Jenna Richards
Programmes Manager

Jenna joined Orchid Project in January 2016. In her current role she supports work with our partners, associates and fellows across our programmatic work. Jenna has previously volunteered in Kenya and Tanzania working on community programmes within healthcare, women’s rights and education. She also volunteered on youth programmes in India and indigenous rights projects with VSO in Cambodia. She holds a BA in International Development from the University of Sussex.

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Amba Swain
Head of Development

Amba is responsible for overseeing Orchid’s income and donor relationships. She has a background in international development and previously served as Head of Business Development at Mercy Ships UK where she worked on growing the supporter and donor base. Amba is passionate about women’s rights and gender equality and is determined to see a world where all girls have the same opportunity to unlock their future potential.

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Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE

Julia set up Orchid Project having spent 18 years in the corporate transport sector. In 2008, she volunteered in Ethiopia, where she came to understand more about the devastating scale and impacts of FGC. In 2010, she led a panel discussing how to end FGC at the World Economic Forum in Davos and then spent time in Senegal and The Gambia, visiting communities and seeing incredible change happening at the grassroots level. In 2017 Julia was awarded an OBE for her work to end FGC.

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Birgitte Zachau Handwerk
Fundraiser and COO for Orchid Project’s Danish association

Birgitte heard Julia, Founder of Orchid Project, speak when Orchid Project was still not officially an NGO. Birgitte was inspired by Julia’s vision of a world free from FGC, and so helped set up Orchid Project and later on started the Danish association of Orchid Project with a group of like-minded Danish supporters. Birgitte has been part of developing Orchid Project’s strategy and projects from the beginning and has been fundraising for and visiting programmatic work in Kenya and Senegal since 2011. Apart from being Orchid Project’s representative and spokesperson in Denmark, Birgitte works as COO for a Danish Conference agency. Birgitte holds a Masters in accounting and auditing and has worked in the advertising business for many years.

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Nardos Hagos
Policy and Advocacy Manager

Nardos is Orchid Project’s Policy and Advocacy Manager where she is responsible for influencing policy to end FGM/C through global advocacy, capacity building, technical support, and research. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Nardos is an international development professional with over 10 years experience.
Prior to joining Orchid Project, Nardos was a Programme Analyst with the UNDP/UN Millennium Campaign Africa Office, where she supported partners ranging from community groups, civil society organisations, UN agencies and governments to accelerate achievement of the MDGs and inclusive development of the SDGs.
She holds an MSc in Public Policy and Management from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and an MSc in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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Sophie Radice
Communications Manager

Sophie has been a freelance journalist since her early twenties. She has worked for content editors ‘Editorial Intelligence’ creating podcast content and writing in depth reports for a varied range of clients. Over 2020 Sophie lead a social mobility networking partnering with Google, linking mentors to young people who want to set up social enterprises.
For six years Sophie worked as the Communications Executive for the NGO Women for Refugee Women and worked on the campaign ‘Set Her Free’ to stop the detention of asylum seeking women.
Sophie has been to Sierra Leone to work as a Communications Adviser for a small local NGO providing health care for women and girls and then the educational charity ‘We Yone Child, which provides education for children in neglected communities.

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Cécile Belaman
Board Chair

Cécile is Managing Director with Bain Capital in London. Prior to this, Cécile was with Morgan Stanley for nine years, most recently as Head of Global Fundraising for the Private Equity Fund of Funds business. Cécile has also worked for the financial sponsors group at JPMorgan and at HVS International, and is a founding member of Level 20, a non-profit organisation that aims to inspire women to join and succeed in the private equity industry.

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Jim Drummond

Jim is a senior development professional who was part of the UK Department For International Development (DFID) leadership team. He was most recently DFID’s Director for Western and Southern Africa and before that for South Asia. He has worked in India, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania and in senior positions in the Cabinet Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

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Carolyn Esser

Carolyn is the Deputy Director of Communications for Europe and the Middle East at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is responsible for the foundation’s communications strategy in these regions, which seeks to raise awareness of the foundation and the initiatives that it supports and works closely with the government relations and advocacy functions to mobilise resources for international development. Previously, Carolyn was Global Communications Director at Logica, the FTSE 250 technology and business service company.

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Mette Hoffmann Meyer

Mette is CEO and Co-founder of The Why Foundation, a non-profit, Peabody Award-Winning organisation striving to ensure that all people have free access to independent information. Mette has worked with documentary film for nearly 30 years, and is the former Head of Documentaries and Co-Productions at the Danish public service broadcaster Danmarks Radio. She is now focusing on modern-day slavery through the campaign WHY SLAVERY?

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Delphine Rivé
Board Treasurer

Delphine is a Managing Director in Accenture, currently focused on working with clients in the Aerospace and Defense clients across Europe. She has held a number of client roles in her 23 years career with Accenture, mainly focused on large scale transformation programmes and Digital Transformation in the High Tech sector. Delphine shares her time between England and France and is passionate about sports and women rights.

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Elisabeth Paulson

Elisabeth is an investment director with Impetus-PEF. Previously, she has worked as a philanthropic consultant with innovative, international funders: The Elton John AIDS Foundation, Comic Relief and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. She worked for ten years with The Economist Intelligence Unit, where she was the Deputy Director of the Country Forecast Service, senior economist and editor of the Asia division and the lead South Asia analyst.

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Carole Presern

Carole is Head of the Office of Board Affairs at the Global Fund to fight AIDs, TB and Malaria. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health based out of WHO, which she joined after working at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Up until 2008 she worked for the UK Department For International Development (DFID) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). Carole has served on the Boards of the Global Fund, UNAIDS, WHO, and humanitarian agencies in her FCO/DFID role. She also served for many years on the Board of the HIV Alliance. Carole started her career as a nurse and midwife, working in a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border. She has a PhD in Public Health Policy, and graduate education in Anthropology and Health Systems Management.

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Joseph Ssentongo

Joseph is a Senior Director in the Analytics team at the Global Innovation Fund (GIF) where he focuses on the measurement of economic and social impacts of prospective and portfolio investments. He works across various thematic areas including gender-based violence, health and livelihood-creation for the poorest people in developing countries. He previously worked with the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), where he led the evaluation of over 30 e-governance projects across 15 African countries. Prior to ICF, Joseph worked in the Gender division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations where he undertook assessment of gender inequalities in agriculture sub-sectors.

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Dr Rewan Youssif

Rewan is a Medical Doctor from Egypt who has been active in the movement to end FGC for a number of years. Having been a Programme Officer for The Girl Generation in Egypt over the duration of the programme funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, Rewan’s knowledge of the issue and connection to activists across Africa is broad and strong. She has also Co-founded the First Regional Youth Network on HIV and SRHR “SIBA” supported by UNAIDS, UNDP and WHO.

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Hibo Aden
Women’s Rights Facilitator, ActionAid International Somaliland

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in April 2016

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Hoda Ali
Activist, Nurse, Community Outreach Project Manager

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in March 2019.

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Farah Dirie
Project Officer, Women's Action Advocacy and Progress Organisation (WAAPO)

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in April 2016.

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Sister Fa
Performer and Activist

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in November 2016.

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Christine Ghati
Activist and Founder of Safe Engage Foundation Kuria

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in March 2019.

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Rena Herdiyani
Vice Chairperson, Kalyanamitra

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in April 2018.

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Leyla Hussein
Psychotherapist and activist

Attended Tostan Training Center in January 2020.

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Jay Kamara Frederick
Activist and Founder of SKiM Network

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in March 2017.

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Sarian Kamara
Community Facilitator, Activist and Founder, Keep the Drums Lose the Knife

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in July 2016.

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Shaheeda Kirtane
Co-founder, Sahiyo

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in July 2016.

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Amos Leuka
Co-Founder and Project Manager, SAFE Maa

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in July 2015.

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Lilis Listyowati
Chairperson, Kalyanamitra

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in April 2018.

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Cess Mugo
Programme Officer, Education Center for the Advancement of Women (ECAW)

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in July 2015.

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Beatrice Muiyuro
Finance and Administration Manager, COVAW

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in December 2018.

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Florence Mwikali
Programme Officer, COVAW

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in December 2018.

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Olachi Peace Ojimadu
Entrepreneur, activist and Programmes Assistant for Youth Network for Community and Sustainable Development

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in March 2019.

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Natalie Robi - Werema
Executive Director and Founder, Msichana Empowerment Kuria

Participated in Mercy Corps GirlSPARKS training in 2018.

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Hawa Sesay
Executive Director, Hawa Trust

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in July 2016.

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David Shakai
Outreach Officer and Performer, SAFE Maa

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in April 2016.

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Naserian Simpano
Outreach Officer and Performer, SAFE Maa

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in April 2016.

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Bethel Tadesse
Founder of Hidden Scars

Attended the Tostan Training Center in January 2020.

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Mariya Taher
Co-founder, Sahiyo

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in July 2016.

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Hibo Wardere
Author and Activist

Participated in a Tostan Training Centre seminar in March 2017.

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Orchid Project Timeline

  • March 2020

    March 2020

    Launched the Asia Network to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) Consultation Report in collaboration with the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW).

  • February 2020

    February 2020

    Launched the Don’t Cut Her Short campaign on the International Day to End FGC 2020.

  • December 2019

    In partnership with the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Orchid Project launched the Asia Network to End FGM/C (FGM/C).

  • November 2019

    November 2019

    Co-launched the Global Platform for Action to End FGM/C at the International Conference on Population Development in Nairobi, Kenya.

  • August 2019

    Grethe Petersen joined Orchid Project as our CEO.

  • February 2019

    February 2019

    3,000 Maasai came together on the International Day to End FGC 2019, through the work of SAFE Maa, to publicly declare an end to FGC.

  • 2018


    Responded to UK Department of International Development investment announcement on BBC News.

  • 2018

    Fed into work on ending FGC by the UK Department of International Development, which announced a £50 million investment.

  • October 2018

    October 2018

    Launched “Aissata’s true story: choosing a world free from FGC” animation and comic in partnership with Tostan and Positive Negatives.

  • 2018


    Held reception at the Canadian High Commission to the UK, marking the International Day to End FGC.

  • 2018

    Held panel event at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.

  • February 2017

    February 2017

    Julia Lalla-Maharajh received an OBE for services to supporting an end to FGC.

  • 2017

    Partnered with Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), in Kenya.

  • May 2017

    117 communities in Senegal publicly declared abandonment of FGC, with support through Orchid Project and Tostan’s partnership.

  • September 2016

    September 2016

    Co-hosted parliamentary event in Ottawa, Canada, with Islamic Relief Worldwide, attended by Canadian Minister of International Development, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau.

  • July 2016

    Supported conference held by Ifrah Foundation in Mogadishu, Somalia.

  • July 2016

    Supported baseline study in Somaliland in partnership with Action Aid and Edna Adan Hospital Foundation.

  • July 2016

    July 2016

    Partnered with transnational grassroots organisation, Sahiyo, in India and the USA.

  • June 2016

    Began outreach to Canadian Ministers and Global Affairs, Canada.

  • June 2016

    Showcased partners’ work at European Development Days in Brussels.

  • May 2016

    Hosted event at Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  • April 2016

    April 2016

    Julia Lalla-Maharajh gave TEDx talk at London Business School.

  • November 2015

    Held event and supported activists to attend Girl Summit in Zambia.

  • November 2015

    November 2015

    Orchid Project travelled to Senegal with Crown Princess Mary of Denmark to witness declaration of FGC abandonment in Kaolack.

  • June 2015

    Orchid Project’s Evidence Advisory Group was established.

  • March 2015

    Held event during the 59th Commission on the Status of Women in New York, highlighting FGC as an issue outside Africa.

  • February 2015

    February 2015

    Held event at the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York, with deputy chairs of UNICEF and UNFPA.

  • November 2014

    November 2014

    Held event in Danish parliament with ministers from Sweden, Norway and the UK.

  • October 2014

    Began lobbying for inclusion of indicator dedicated to FGC within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

  • September 2014

    First Orchid Project Knowledge Sharing Workshop is held in Kuria, Kenya.

  • July 2014

    July 2014

    Held event at the UK Department of International Development at Girl Summit 2014 (Pictured: Activists Sister Fa and Jay Kamara Frederick).

  • June 2014

    Attended second Middle East and Asia Conference to End FGC in Istanbul.

  • March 2014

    Julia Lalla-Maharajh joined an advisory group to the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening MP.

  • February 2014

    February 2014

    Supported first declaration of FGC abandonment ceremony in Bamako, Mali through partnership with Tostan.

  • February 2014

    Held reception with Orchid Project Denmark welcoming US Ambassador to mark the International Day to End FGC.

  • January 2014

    January 2014

    Partnered with the Education Center for the Advancement of Women (ECAW), in Kenya.

  • 2013

    Worked alongside UK Department of International Development civil servants ahead of the government’s first investment into ending FGC of £35 million.

  • 2013

    Journalists from the London Evening Standard and The Times newspapers travelled to Senegal with Orchid Project, to witness communities publicly declaring abandonment of FGC.

  • 2013


    Partnered with grassroots organisation, S.A.F.E. Kenya.

  • March 2013

    Fed into work on ending FGC by the UK Department of International Development, which announced a £35 million investment.

  • 2013

    Held reception in House of Lords marking the International Day to End FGC.

  • December 2012

    Joined with global civil society supporting the UN General Assembly Resolution against FGC.

  • November 2012

    Presented a Theory of Change for ending FGC to 80 social development advisers at the UK Department for International Development.

  • 2012

    Gave evidence to Human Rights Council on FGC in Indonesia.

  • 2012


    Launched ‘Social Mobilisation Programme’ in partnership with Tostan in Senegal. (Pictured: Malick Niang, SMP lead, Tostan)

  • 2012


    Partnered with hip hop artist Sister Fa (pictured) to support artist workshop in Senegal.

  • February 2012

    Held reception in House of Commons marking the International Day to End FGC.

  • April 2011

    April 2011

    Orchid Project gains charitable registration in the UK and partners with West African grassroots organisation, Tostan.

  • January 2011

    Travelled to West Africa to witness communities declaring an end to FGC through the work of Tostan. Julia was inspired to set up Orchid Project.

  • January 2010

    January 2010

    Having won the “Davos Debates” YouTube competition, Julia took the issue of FGC to the World Economic Forum.

  • 2009


    Julia Lalla-Maharajh volunteered in Ethiopia and found out more about the extent and scale of female genital cutting around the world.