7 August 2013

Interview with Ann-Marie Wilson

Blog by 28 Too Many volunteer Vivien Cohen.

Since its inception, 28 Too Many has worked tirelessly to promote the anti FGM movement and towards ending FGM in its entirety. Over the past year the charity has seen much accomplished, and for Ann- Marie and the rest of the 28 Too Many team, the past few months have been both busy and productive. I recently caught up with Ann-Marie to find out what has been happening in with 28 Too Many since January and also to find out what the rest of the year holds for Ann Marie and the campaigns team. 

What were the primary goals of 28 Too Many at the beginning of this year? 

With the criminalisation of FGM by the UN late last year, and the crown prosecution service vowing to prosecute those guilty of perpetrating FGM in this country, we have seen FGM being brought further into the limelight than it arguably has been before. This is great news for us and for the cause, as education and awareness about FGM play a huge part in the battle towards ensuring its eradication. To this end our goals have primarily been to continue disseminating information about FGM both in this country and others, and also joining in various discussions and debates with the international community to see our shared goals accomplished. We were also keen to continue our work in building up country profiles of the African countries in which FGM is still practiced.

To what extent have you accomplished these goals? 

We have been incredibly busy since January, both here and abroad. With regard to spreading information and awareness we really have been full steam ahead! On the 6th of February people around the world celebrated the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, which we marked with a week of activities, including a blog for Tearfund, an appearance on Ben TV and articles in both Liberti magazine and the Huffington post.  Following these we took part in several workshops and events for One Billion Rising UK (OBRUK) and had two blogs published on the OBRUK website ensuring FGM was part of this campaign. On V-Day (14th February) as well a discussion and Q&A session on violence against women with MPs Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy, we also took part in a flashmobs in Parliament Square and the Southbank Centre with hundreds of other women, raising our voices together to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

We also promoted our 40 day Lent campaign- during which time we took part in International Women’s Day and I went to New York to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women.  There I attended 8 days of events and delivered two talks myself on FGM and Harmful Traditional Practices, with my attendance proving to be something which contributed greatly to our goal of facilitating and taking part in the international discussion about FGM. 

What is still to be done and when do you hope to accomplish it by? 

Of course, when it comes to our work, what we ultimately hope to see accomplished is an end to FGM. With that in mind we are working towards building up a comprehensive body of research about FGM in Africa, whilst promoting education, awareness, and discussion. We have been building up country profiles through-out the first quarter of this year, through research in Kenya, Uganda and Mali. We have also been doing secondary research on FGM in Ethiopia and have commissioned research in Tanzania. We are hoping to be able to deliver a comprehensive summary of all our research in the near future and we have also selected four more countries to research in 2013-14, with two in East Africa and two in West Africa.

What important dates/ events have been in the 28 Too Many desk diary this year? 

As previously mentioned the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM on the 6th of February continues to be an important date in the 28 Too Many diary, as was international Women’s Day on the 8th of March. We also recently attended the Big IF in London’s Hyde Park on the 8th of June, and through-out this spring we have been attending and speaking at various groups and schools regarding the subject of FGM. 

One event which really brought FGM into the public eye was when, on April the 13th, Casualty ran a two part episode with FGM at the centre of its storyline. This was a huge step, as the subject of FGM has not previously played a part in mainstream British TV. This episode succeeded in putting the spotlight on FGM, opening the subject up for public discussion and, we hope, perhaps empowering and educating both those at risk and those in a position to help at risk children. 

What important dates are still to come? 

We have many exciting events coming up over the remainder of the year. You can keep up to date with our activities via our website or our Face Book page, where we post regular updates.  This month we continue campaigning and raising awareness of the increased risk of FGM during the long summer school holidays when many girls are at an increased risk of FGM. We will also be progressing our research programme preparing country profiles on FGM in Ethiopia and Tanzania to follow the reports on Kenya and Uganda which we published earlier this year and which are now available as a free resource on our website.

Having successfully completing a fundraising 10K run in July on behalf of 28 Too Many, I am now training hard for another even more challenging wild run in Coventry in September. If you would like to become a sponsor the link is here, every penny helps! 

To what extent do you feel that you have accomplished the original aims of 28 Too Many since the charity was first set up? 

With regard to our ultimate aim- to eradicate FGM, there is of course still a long way to go. However, since I started 28 Too Many, we have really come along in leaps and bounds. When I started out one year ago there was no funding for the charity and only one intern. What I did have in abundance was determination and a dream to see an end to FGM in my lifetime. Now, one year on, there are over 20 volunteers who contribute to the 28 Too Many team, and together we have managed to raise £55,000 for the cause. 

As we celebrate being one year old, we are also celebrating  the launch of our new website, our first pilot country profile for Kenya and the continuing growth of 28 Too Many as a leading and established voice in the global anti FGM movement.  The remainder of the year is set to be as exciting and as busy as the months which have passed and, as always, we are grateful to all those who volunteer time, effort and funds to helping us in fighting this very worthy cause.  I am certain that 28 Too Many will continue to go from strength to strength, as will the global anti FGM movement, and I am excited to be a part of this.  

If you would like to support the campaign to end FGM you can donate to 28 Too Many, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or maybe get active like Ann-Marie do a sponsored event to raise money!