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Will The ‘Girl Summit’ Speed Ending FGM In The UK?

August 10, 2014

12.05.27-30 red blobs 280aThe Girl Summit in London on 22 July ’14 was an extraordinary event, bringing together various EndFGM and CEFM (child/early/forced marriage) campaigners and top influencers from around the world.   The evident positives have however been balanced by caveats from, e.g., Naana Otoo-Oyortey * of FORWARDUK and the participatory development expert Clementine Burnley **.  For me too there are issues, not least around where this leaves the stop FGM campaign in the UK.

* Where were the grassroots voices at the Girl Summit? > The global event on FGM and child marriage was a big step in the right direction, but there are still four key areas to address (Naana Otoo-Oyortey, 30 July 2014)

** Letters: What is participation if it doesn’t put communities centre stage? > The Girl Summit showed the problem is not just with governments, NGOs also shift communities to the periphery (Clementine Burnley, 6 August 204)

What follows is a version of the commentary I posted in response to these two articles…..

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I too feel very conflicted by the razzmatazz of the Girl Summit.

Of course everyone who has worked so hard and so long in the wilderness is genuinely delighted that at last FGM is receiving the recognition so desperately required, if it is to be eradicated.

And of course it was essential to get together those international leaders of the political and other communities who can actually do something big to make things happen.

Inclusion and discussion
But what a shame that the Girl Summit excluded as many (more?) committed people as it included. What a shame there was no open access effort to develop UK domestic agendas through genuinely wide discussion, before the Prime Minister announced what he says will happen next.

Perhaps in part (in the UK) that was because the Government has only recently come to acknowledge what a terrible blight FGM is, here like in many other places…. remember, in early 2011 they actively chose to remove the role of anti-FGM national co-ordinator. Presumably, despite many grass-roots protests, they didn’t think FGM important then.

(More evidence that the Girl Summit was a curiously hasty idea comes from the view offered by one or two on the inside that they ‘didn’t have time’ to make sure a decent range of UK activists was invited; and nor apparently did they have time to suggest people with a serious involvement might like to indicate their interest, to secure an invitation.)

I will always open-heartedly welcome a light shining on FGM and other often hidden violence, but the hypocrisy is very worrying.

Violence against women and girls
The Coalition still refuses asylum to women and girls from countries like Nigeria which, by any standards, represent a serious threat.

Last Autumn Rashida Manjoo, Professor of Public Law of the University of Cape Town, and Special Rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council on Violence against women, its causes and consequences, delivered her initial report on findings about women and violence in the United Kingdom. She had some hard things to say to our politicians.  (Tanya Gould elaborates on this theme: David Cameron’s FGM drive cannot obscure his dismal record on vulnerable women.)

The realities of national action
The announcements about money (some requiring matched funding?) and support are also less impressive when they are considered carefully, as both Clementine Burnley and Naana Otoo-Oyortey have reminded us, right here. Let’s just hope it’s not smoke and mirrors; but whether it is or not, the UK sums involved are paltry. No wonder there is concern from the grass-roots.

Plus, what about the National Action Plan? Firstly, it isn’t a new idea; and the last effort to get one going (as above) was demolished. Others have called for one repeatedly. It may be (is it?) a new idea to David Cameron, but it’s not to everyone else.

So too with the legal developments. The loopholes needed attending to, but there has been pressure to make progress legally for a few years now. It’s the dawning realisation by the police that they need to be, um, detectives, to root out FGM, alongside a single clear route for reporting (all) child abuse, that will help to secure significant prosecutions.

Engaging communities
And what of the relevant communities? They need a lot of support – and pressure on, eg, their faith leaders, to speak out – if we are to eradicate FGM; but they also need direct connection with the mainstream, not poverty and marginalisation. (More diversity in the police and some other enforcement agencies would be good, too.) What they don’t need is hostile talk about ‘migrants’, especially since many of them are not.

All these considerations leave me wishing very strongly that I could feel happier about the glitz of the Girl Summit. There were some wonderful, sincere and dedicated people there (I truly mean that, I know some of them) but like many others I can’t feel that same about the event overall.

What next for the UK?
The UK Coalition needs to think very hard about why it hosted this Summit, and why it chose to do so in the way it did. (Details of speeches by the Prime Minister and others can be found on the Girl Summit website.)

Others may have pondered the issues and reasons behind these moves already, perhaps hoping their interim thoughts will prove to be unworthy.

Now we need real dialogue, on the ground, and between all parties to the process of making FGM history; and we need it especially in the UK (where there is still so much to do).

Plan UK appears to have taken up the EndFGM campaign alongside the UK Government, but the claim by its Chief Executive (Guardian letters, Tanya Barron, 3 July ’14) that

we will not end the practice here until it is ended around the world

deserves critical scrutiny.

The UK has many resources unavailable to those in other parts of the world. I don’t think she’s right.

Why was that claim made?

If the UK chose to allocate enough resources we could make FGM history here, and set a great example of why FGM isn’t ‘needed’ in the modern world.

The Girl Summit was a great start; I wonder what’s stopping us now?

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A free, open-access event, Making FGM History in the UK, will be held on Monday 22 September, in Manchester. Details here.

There is a free FGM hotline for anyone in the UK: 0800 028 3550, or

The #NoFGM Daily News carries reports of all items shared on Twitter that day about FGM – brings many organisations and developments into focus.  Subscription is free and without obligation (please just click the link above to subscribe).

Also available to follow (free) is daily news from NoFGM_USA.

For more on FGM please see here.

Twitter accounts: @NoFGM1  @NoFGMBookUK  @FGMStatement  @NoFGM_USA   [tag for all: #NoFGM]

Facebook page: #NoFGM – a crime against humanity

More info on FGM in the UK here.    Email contact: NoFGM email

Readers are invited to support these two FGM e-petitions:

UK Government: Enforce the UK law which forbids FGM (Female Genital so-called ‘Cutting’)    ..

and FGM abolitionists internationally: Support the Feminist Statement on Female Genital Mutilation

[See also HM Government e-petition, No. 35313, to STOP Female Genital Mutilation (FGM / ‘cutting’) in Britain  (for UK citizens and residents – now closed).]

** Hilary Burrage is currently writing a book, Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jhon Murdock permalink
    August 13, 2014 02:22

    Wonder why the police haven’t mounted any under cover sting operations? What’s holding them back?

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