Case Study: MWNUK

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Rosa invests in organisations which work to create a safer world for women. Violence against women, which includes domestic violence, stalking and harassment, rape and sexual offences, forced marriage, honour based violence and female genital mutilation, child abuse, sexual exploitation by human trafficking and prostitution, is a shameful violation of women’s human rights and a cause and consequence of women’s inequality.

Fear of violence reduces women’s autonomy and choices. We want to end violence and the fear of violence. The example below is illustrative of the sorts of projects Rosa has been able to support, empowering women to speak out against Female Genital Mutilation.

“Having got up the courage and spoken about it [FGM] she decided that she wants to become a champion to advocate for ending FGM”

-Project Coordinator from interview with a Nurse Midwife of Somali origin

FGM is still widely perceived as a taboo which many are reluctant to talk about, but Rosa UK is breaking down barriers through the FGM Small Grants Programme, which reaches out to challenge taboos and ingrained perceptions about the practice.

In many cases, our projects provide the first opportunity for women to ever speak to someone about their experiences. At first, many of the women engaging with our funded project in Birmingham felt unable to talk about their experience, as some have been threatened with violence or retaliation for speaking out against FGM by relatives or other community members, who viewed FGM as intrinsic to their culture,

‘A Sierra Leonean woman in her late forties told me that she was afraid to speak of her [FGM] experience as she was told as a child that the Gbondo devil would come and curse her for the rest of her life [if she did].’

– Project Coordinator

Our funding supported MWNUK, one of the only national Muslim women’s organisations in the UK, which raises the profile of issues of concern to Muslim women and strengthens their ability to bring about effective change in their lives, focusing on forced marriage and other violence against women.  Rosa UK’s FGM Small Grants Programme enabled MWNUK carry out research with affected communities and to address the consequences of FGM and prevent the practice from continuing through to the next generation.

Our support enabled local work within the diverse communities of Birmingham, including many hailing from countries where FGM is widely practiced, such as Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ghana. 26 detailed case studies were collected of the lives of women affected by FGM. These personal stories from survivors shed light on the reality of FGM in the UK and are being used to inform the development of effective preventions. Through the process of collecting the case studies the women involved have been motivated to take action and become FGM champions, working to end the practice. As one woman from Somalia, who was initially reluctant to engage with the project coordinator, said,

“Fathers don’t even know [about it], it is the women who need to make the change.”

The research was the first step in a process to achieve change and end FGM. It identified issues based on women’s personal experiences and, looking forward, the focus of work will shift from research to behaviour change, adding to the unified movement of UK-wide organisations working to end FGM in a generation.