Today, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), there will be a flurry of new reports, international conferences and statements about why more must be done to end FGM. This is all important work in raising awareness and creating political will to tackle one of the worst forms of child abuse and to protect the more than 3 million girls at risk each year.
But on the days that follow, I will be looking to see what has changed. Are there significant new funding commitments to the grassroots activists across the world trying to run programme? What extra support will be put in place to ensure doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. fulfil their responsibilities to safeguard, support and educate? Are there any concrete plans for the necessary specialist services for millions of girls and women who have had FGM and are living with the lifelong consequences?
I hope we will see progress on these issues in 2019 and I know many activists who are working hard to make a difference. However, this is a long fight and we need to keep working and to keep pushing for change. Without strong support from government and funding from international donors it is a very difficult and personally exhausting task. This is why, on this Zero Tolerance Day, I am so pleased to be able to run a well-being retreat for anti-FGM campaigners in the USA. The grassroots activists, who are often survivors themselves, are the most important asset in the global campaign to end FGM.
Over the last year, working with The Girl Generation and supported by Wallace Global Fund, I led a team including activists from Kenya, to develop an emotional well-being programme and resources for End FGM campaigners. Over the coming months I will be expanding this work, supporting the survivors and activists who are key to ending FGM and helping them to build personal resilience and to be effective in their work. I hope that organisations working with grassroots activists will also look at how they can improve the support they offer. If we take care of ourselves, we are better able to help others.