28 July 2014

Girl Effect Live

Blog by 28 Too Many volunteer Shirelle Salem.

The Girl Effect Live was one of the many events taking place in the lead up to the Girl Summit. The event took place across a number of venues in London's Brick Lane on Sunday 20th July and used female-led music, poetry, comedy and workshops to not only convey, but also to celebrate the power of girls to break the cycle of poverty and raising awareness of the key issues that were to be discuss at the Girl Summit.

The Truman Brewery's Dray Walk gallery hosted a Girls Reframed exhibition including pieces from Hattie Stewart and Michela Picchi. 

At the Loading Bay, there was an opportunity for girl's to hear a young girl's story of early forced marriage through an immersive experience. This was incredible powerful and moving.

I also had the opportunity to attend a talk focused on early forced marriage and FGM - the main drive behind the Girl Summit. The panel included Nimco Ali (Co-founder and CEO of Daughter's of Eve), Leyla Hussein (Co-founder of Daughter's of Eve & Psychotherapist), Stephanie Sinclair (photojournalist) and Sister Fa (Soul/ Hip hop performer and FGM campaigner). These incredible and inspiring women spoke of their own experiences, why these practices need to end and how individuals can get involved.

More specifically, Leyla spoke of how important the use of language is. When attaching 'child-abuse' to FGM, others are more likely to take note. She went on to discuss how it is vital to discuss our bodies, at home and in school, and to be made aware of laws that are in place and what help is out there. More recently, after noticing a gap in services for psychological support for survivors of FGM, Leyla has set up the first ever psychotherapy centre for survivors of FGM - the Dahlia Project.

Nimco later highlighted how the FGM act is not working in the UK and spoke of a huge loophole that exists. For example, if a parent was to cut their child's finger off, the child would not have to give evidence as the cut finger is the evidence - there is physical evidence before you. However, if it is a case of FGM, the child is expected to give evidence (despite the physical evidence). This often results in cases being thrown out of court.

Sister Fa spoke of her project 'Education sans Excision' (education without cutting) where they use art workshops in schools to stimulate discussions about human rights and leading to FGM. She highlighted how important it is to involve the whole community in order to end this practice, both men and women. 

Stephanie Sinclair spoke of her experience with girls as young as 9 years old who had experienced early forced marriage. She described one young girl as an old women with a child's voice, speaking in a very matter-of-fact way but at the same time make statements like 'but I don't know how babies are made.' This young girl was married at 6 and it was agreed that the marriage would not be consummated. Sadly, the girl's mother passed way and this agreement was no longer honoured. This was a child who had not yet reached puberty and when asked about her husband said she hated him. 

The event concluded with a concert at the Village underground headlined by UK singer Jessie J who said “I am involved in Girl Effect Live, because I want to take a stand with other girls in the UK to inspire, recognise and celebrate the amazing potential of girls everywhere.”

There was a great turnout for the event, and it was encouraging to hear individuals wanting to get involved in the movement. It was a chance for people to stand together and raise awareness of such key issues and contribute to the fight to end these practices. 

You can also learn more about our work to end FGM and how you can help at www.28toomany.org. You can donate to support our research and campaigns and follow us on Facebook for updates on the global movement to end FGM.