7 February 2012

What will you be doing on 6th February?

As we mark anti-FGM Day (6th February) with attending a conference at the Royal College of Obstrectics & Gynaecologists, a reception at Westminster and an event with Sister Fa, we reflect on the last 3 months of 28TooMany activities, read on……!

Journey to help change traditional practices

At the end my Conference in Kenya, I stayed on to have some community meetings regarding FGM and visit some projects. My most exciting day was spent visiting a Maasai community in the Ngong Hills. I wasn’t quite sure what my visit was going to entail, but was told when I was met by a church leader and a women’s charity leader, that we were going to travel ‘local style’! This firstly meant a walk across some of Nairobi in potholed pavements, to be followed by a quite long bus journey. 

Sadly, Nairobi had security issues when I was there. In the Dadaab Internally Displaced People Camp (IDP) where I worked in 2008, the numbers have swelled from 250,000 to 490,000 – when it was built for 100,000! Tensions are mounting and the camp may have to relocate to inside Somalia.

The third part of our journey to the Maasai was by taxi up a near vertical muddy hill – with me squeezed in between a Maasai pastor, my female colleague and the church leader, with the Bishop in the front seat! I learnt more about how the Maasai had been forced to go from being nomadic to settling as Pastoralists, due to their cattle dying in the recent famine. They have planted crops on former Reservation land given them on independence. One benefit of this new situation is that girls can get schooling. This also means they can learn FGM has huge health complications. I met an 18 year old teacher who has remained uncut (by running away) and two 15 year olds who did the same after running to a grandma or aunt and are now completing their education, though it takes them four hours to walk each way to school and their smoky home has no light to enable them to do homework. 

We finally completed our journey by foot with my Primark pumps not really being suited to the walk across fields! We were greeted with such enthusiasm – jumping, singing and dancing as soon as we were in sight of communities. The women and men were all dressed in beautiful headwear and brightly coloured clothes. Although my feet were pretty muddy, I’d managed to keep vertical and dried off in their community’s church in a barn. The 100 strong community have become Christians, and whilst there are many practises that could still be worked on (gender issues; adultery; early marriage etc) FGM has not happened for anyone under age 18, so that is considerable progress.

28TooMany turns 1!

November saw 28TooMany become 1 year old, and move onto Facebook and Twitter! For those also into social networking, please ‘Like’ us on our 28TooMany Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. That same week I was delighted to receive the Inspired Individual Award 2011 Runner Up prize – tea in Parliament, a framed certificate and a box of Fair-trade chocolates!

I am also delighted to have been awarded a place on Tearfund’s Inspired Individual Programme. My 3 year scheme starts in February with a violence against women cohort and induction in London and later in the year in East Africa. Our team has become double figures as we have an intern and 7 volunteers to add to the ‘core’ team of 3. Our Communications & Volunteer Coordinator works on site weekly and looks after the other volunteers and campaigns.

My time with Restored goes well, and we started the year with a fast on 3rd January! The work of 28TooMany is finding a following and a colleague in Barnet and I ran a workshop on FGM in Barnet’s Safeguarding month. This had 26 attendees and we had speakers from FORWARD and Imkaan (anti-forced marriage) as well as me speaking on FGM globally and in the UK. FGM is likely to affect 4.5% of the population in Barnet (3500 per annum in UK so it is relevant to social services, midwifes, education teams and policy makers. I also attended seminars on child trafficking, paedophile profiling and witchcraft – dark and heavy stuff.

Sharing experiences and learning

I had the privilege of speaking at a mid African Conference in Hoddesdon in December, FGM not having been a topic covered for their intercessor audience before! 

I completed my ‘technical’ training with a day at a major hospital in West London – observing and assisting at an African Well Woman’s Clinic. I supported the specialist consultant midwife as well as seeing three patients –with my role in taking histories, educating patients and performing de-infibulations (FGM partial reversal) being more hands on than I had expected! What a privilege to do similar work in the UK to what I have been involved in overseas in Pakistan and Nigeria. A good job I learnt well there!

I completed my first of two modules for a degree on Pioneering by attending a week on Missional Entrepreneurship in Devon. We had amazing speakers and delegates from across the UK and overseas. Another aspect of the degree ‘Sink or Swim’ which offers support for pioneers via action learning groups, and I have joined a trio who now meet bi-monthly. The first and second years all met for a Christmas Sharing Day in Oxford – where we swapped skills – my offering being decorating baked Christmas cookies!