This week, The Girl Generation brought together our dynamic young activists from Kenya, Nigeria, The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Egypt, UK and Sudan, and our Global Ambassador, Leyla Hussein. We discussed the successes already achieved by our Anti-FGM Youth Networks and what more needs to be done to ensure young people are involved and that their voices are heard within the movement to end FGM.
Here, Leyla reflects on where The Girl Generation started, and remembers our former Programme Director, Efua Dorkenoo, who sadly passed away shortly after the launch of The Girl Generation. Efua left us with a bold vision, which continues to propel us to do better every day, so that together we can end FGM within a generation.
As Global Ambassador for The Girl Generation, to me it’s very personal. I started this as a young campaigner, when I was 22 years old. One of the most important aspects is really reflecting on Efua’s vision. From when I first met Efua 15 years ago, she talked about an Africa-led movement and how necessary it would be for this movement to be led by young people in order to end FGM. She was adamant about that message.
Being here this week and experiencing the passion and energy of our youth activists, I feel really tearful, because this is the vision Efua had. It was an ‘a-ha!’ moment; finally, we are getting there. Efua would have been too excited to even run this meeting. She would just have been watching all these young people around this table! I have her in my head all this time.
And you know anytime you want to start something new, the first two years can be very challenging. One thing I have learned from being a campaigner is that whenever you have an idea, the first two years are spent on just building that foundation, in order for it to be sustainable. So in a way, it felt like we were building this safe haven and platform for campaigners, who have great ideas on how to end FGM. But it’s not just wanting to end FGM; what I love about The Girl Generation is that it’s about girls’ rights. It all interconnects. We are now equipped to support any young person – or any person - who has a message on ending all forms of oppression against women and girls.
Efua and I were here in Nairobi in 2014, three years ago now, so it’s nice to come back. There were only five of us in Kenya then, and now we are a room full of people from different countries in Africa. The leadership of young people tackling the issue of human rights has evolved; young people are using the appropriate language e.g. ending violence against children and leveraging our Do No Harm principle - and it is good to recognise this as a positive outcome in terms of the work of The Girl Generation. I’m so proud of how far we have come in such as short space of time.
The current leadership at The Girl Generation has been inspiring and influential. Globally we have an Africa- led movement fronted by the next generation and our Global Director, Dr Faith Mwangi-Powell, has demonstrated that collaboration is a key vehicle to ending FGM – and young people are the drivers of the social change movement to end FGM.
To see so many men in the room is absolutely great. Usually, on these programmes, it’s always women, speaking amongst other women. I hope that others can learn from involvement of men in ending FGM.
Thinking about the future, now that we’ve set the foundation, we need to go out there, and show people who we are and what we’ve achieved so far and how we can continue to do so. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, it’s just joining up and supporting.
So I encourage you to join us and let’s be bold, visible and continue to set the footprint for long, sustainable, life-changing work to end FGM.