The Girl Generation is the largest-ever global collective of organisations working to end FGM and this month marks the end of The Girl Generation’s five-year partnership with the UK’s Department for International Development.
When the partnership with DFID began in 2014, The Girl Generation was a small team driven by a big mission – to end FGM in Africa. With a focus across ten very different countries with very different contexts, we were unsure of what the future would bring.
After five years of partnership with DFID, the programme’s membership now spans over 900 members, 91% of who are working to end FGM in Africa. This makes it the largest global collective working to end FGM.
Our priority from the start was supporting the Africa-led movement, focusing on bottom-up support, strengthening the work of organisations already working to end FGM. We created a new lexicon and guidance through ‘Do No Harm’, shifting the narrative around FGM.
I am immensely proud of all that has been achieved.
The road hasn’t always been easy. At the start, we weren’t sure whether our ambition was too big.
How could we build a movement across an entire continent? How could we use a communications campaign to break the silence on FGM? How could we harness the power of Africa’s largest youth population? How could we support the activists working at the grassroots?
There were many unknowns. But we stood united in the single belief that FGM can and will end in one generation.
The tragic passing of Efua Dorkenoo, the programme’s first Global Director and the mother of the end FGM movement, took the wind from our sails just as we were getting started. We agonised about a future without Efua’s leadership, but we found strength in the support of the many who encouraged us to go on. We vowed to keep Efua’s spirit alive and deliver her vision – to this day, this commitment still drives us on.
The Girl Generation.
We have created a critical mass of trainers, equipped with concrete skills and practical tools to train others and to start conversations in their communities. These trainers reach over 12 million people with effective messages to end FGM. Local actors are empowered to shift the social norms that underpin FGM.
We have supported the creation of nationwide networks of engaged youth in all ten focal countries, as well as a global youth network brand. The first-ever pan-African Youth Summit brought youth activists together to strategise and to mobilise. Young people are better connected, their platforms strengthened and their voices increasingly heard.
We have constantly found ways to innovate. The ‘I Will End FGM’ global campaign brought the movement together under one message, reaching over 20 million people. Our ground-breaking Emotional Wellbeing Program was the first to focus on activist’s self-care. Our Face of Defiance exhibition used photography to shine a light on survivor voices. Our first-of-its-kind End FGM Grassroots Fund supported small organisations – in fact, a total of 172 organisations in 9 countries – made possible by leveraging DFID funds to raise an additional $5 million from Human Dignity Foundation and Wallace Global Fund.
Through The Girl Generation’s advocacy we have raised the visibility of the movement in the halls of power - the UN, the African Union, nationwide governments and policy makers now know about the unstoppable momentum of the Africa-led movement to end FGM.
Change is happening across the continent.
Communities across Africa are abandoning FGM. This year, activists in Nigeria instantly mobilised when a man advertised FGM on social media. Community leaders in Mali vowed to end the practice after becoming aware of the health implications. The Sabaot in Kenya recently handed in their cutting tools as a symbol of ending the practice. The Girl Generation’s Do No Harm Guidance has now been incorporated by national governments in several African countries.
The end FGM movement is increasingly becoming self-sustaining. In response to DFID’s largest-ever investment into FGM in November 2018, activists shared thousands of stories online under #tggdidwell. The stories documented the change happening at the grassroots – celebrating the movement’s solidarity and reaffirming their commitment to end FGM by 2030.
I believe that we are at a tipping point. A future without FGM is imminent. This would not have been possible without DFID’s ongoing collaboration, energy and support. We are immensely grateful – thank you for partnering with us and for being by our side.
Our work is not yet done.
Moving forward, we’ve been talking to partners - old and new - to secure new investment to carry on this important work and create new initiatives. The good news is that we have secured some additional funding for the end FGM movement. We’re taking the time to scope out these opportunities and make the most of them.
This means that you will hear less from The Girl Generation team for a few months. We’ll be using this time to refresh our strategy and to refine our plans. It's been a busy five years. And we’re excited to have the chance to take stock and to craft our future.
The Girl Generation has always belonged to the movement and not to any one person or team. The Girl Generation is the knowledge shared, the solidarity created, the energy we gain from one another. The Girl Generation is belief that together we will end FGM in a generation.