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Appreciation: Efua Dorkenoo OBE

October 23, 2014

Efua Dorkenoo The death of Efua Dorkenoo at the age of only 65 is a massive loss to the global community of those striving to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). There have been many appreciations of her written already, but here is mine, composed at their request for the Morning Star. Above my small piece I have posted links to some larger tributes, and below it a photograph taken in 2013 with a note which Efua herself wrote on that occasion, encapsulating in just a few words her massive grasp of the issues and how to approach them.  Thank you, Efua, for everything.


(6 September 1949 – 18 October 2014)

Some tributes:

Cosmopolitan          Equality Now          Esmee Fairbairn Foundation          FORWARD          Girls’ Globe          The Guardian          Huffington Post UK         The Independent          Options          Thomson Reuters Foundation      The Times       UnCut/Voices Press

and mine, as in the Morning Star ….

Efua Dorkenoo, who has died of cancer in London, will be remembered with respect and gratitude in countless ways, but most of all for her many years of hard-headed and deeply committed campaigning to erase the cruel scourge of female genital mutilation (FGM), which even now blights the lives of – or kills – millions of girls and young women across the globe, year on year.

Striking in both her physical presence and her wider influence, Efua’s sway and work to stop FGM came to span much of the globe.  In the past year she saw both massively increased concern to address FGM in the UK, and, just a week before she died, the formal launch of the African-led movement, The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM, of which she was Programme Director.

Born in Ghana, as a young nursing student Efua saw at first hand the grim realities of FGM, when she relocated to work in London becoming an example par excellence of how to combine practical activism, political acumen and solid scholarship to great effect in FGM campaigns.  Efua understood that none of these elements was likely, alone, to achieve the outcome which she unerringly demanded.

To eradicate FGM, communities, political will and professional skills all need to be aligned, with their own specific briefings, data and messages; so that’s what Efua Dorkenoo, recipient of a Master’s degree in public health and an OBE for public service, delivered.

In 1983 Efua founded FORWARD, a UK women’s health organisation campaigning against FGM; she collaborated for decades with the World Health Organisation; and in later years she led FGM programmes for both Equality Now and the international health / development organisation OPTIONS.

Efua Dorkenoo’s legacy is already many thousands of girls and women untouched by the looming terror in their communities of FGM.  Those who remain to take forward her life’s work are determined that soon these terrors will reside firmly, only and forever in history.

13.05.26 Tobe, Efua and Hilary meet-up in Brown's, Islington 1a

Tobe Levin, Efua Dorkenoo (with notes below) and Hilary Burrage [London, 26 May 2013]

13.05.26 Tobe Efua  Hilary meet-up in Brown's Islington Notes 3

Violence Against Women and Girls: Framework

Your own recollections of Efua Dorkenoo and her unique contribution to the fight against FGM are of course very welcome, as Comments below…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2014 15:57

    Beautifully written tribute, Hilary. And thank you for listing the major media who have also paid homage to a great woman.

  2. Sara Gourlay permalink
    October 23, 2014 18:41

    Many Doctors surgeries; Pharmacies; Schools and other social societies do not have leaflets referring to FGM subject and those employed within these situations are not even aware of what ‘FGM’ actually means. How can this cruelty and child abuse begin to be eradicated if it is not even common knowledge within our society and subsequently discussed openly?

    We must enforce the education of this subject throughout our society without embarrassment so that those who are victims feel that they can safely and openly discuss their fears of prospective abuse of this nature without fear of reprisal.

    We cannot leave it any longer. Action must be taken now and leaflets/brochures/posters providing information openly must be distributed without delay to every possible/location.

    Education regarding the vulnerability of these females must be an immediate priority.

    Presently it is not. Why?

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    [Note from Hilary:] Here’s one of the NoFGM posters currently in circulation, Sara. It was photographed on a train:
    Free posters and leaflets to be displayed in relevant locations, particularly G.P surgeries and education establishments, can be obtained from

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