Progress Report: Sept. 12th FGM event planning meeting

On Tuesday September 12th the 16 Days organising committee held a planning meeting for a 2-day female genital mutilation (FGM) event. This event will be held during this year’s 16 Days of action against gender-based violence (GBV). The official dates of this event are pending but, tentatively, it will be held on the 29th and 30th of November.

This initial meeting was attended by:

Elaine Galbraith (Police Scotland)

Nahla Awad (individual/Bright Choices volunteer)

Dounia Ouizem (Amina-the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre)

Bob Wright (Edinburgh Napier University)

Oonagh O’Brien (Queen Margaret University)

Bryan McNeill (UK Border Force)

Jerusalem Barnabas (Waverley Care)

Niharika Puri (Edinburgh Napier University)

Hannah Lawrence (St. Andrews University)

and conducted by Angela Voulgari (Sacro, Bright Choices)

There were also many other supporters not in attendance who we will be following up with separately to get their input on the meeting discussions.

The meeting itself was very fruitful with most attendees giving great suggestions about the nature of the FGM event – such as venue options, target audience, interactive versus tutorial style presentation, etc. Although, again, everything is still in tentative stages, there was unanimous agreement that the FGM event be interactive and cater to a diverse audience of professionals, FGM survivors, third-sector workers, general public, politicians, etc. Additionally, it was unanimously expressed that the event should further try to address the complexity of tackling FGM.

FGM lies at a crossroads of many dearly held value systems – including religion, culture, and family. Therefore the solution to the problem of FGM- and indeed the source of the problem itself- is notoriously difficult to identify, much less tackle. And it was stressed by those present at the meeting that this FGM event should attempt to diversify people’s perceptions of FGM, the survivors of FGM, as well as the perpetrators (and perpetuators) of this practice. Because, like anything, there is no black and white concept of good and bad. None of us make decisions in a vacuum or are immune to the forces around us that were formed by the powers that be – powers that can be oppressive and reality-distorting.

Through this event, we look forward to contributing to a more multi-dimensional understanding of FGM, its consequences, and possible solutions. As we continue to gather input from all our supporters in the coming weeks and months, accordingly we will update the blog with more concrete information regarding the evolution of our FGM event.

Until then!

– 16 Days Team

(Featured photo: FGM awareness session run by the African Union Mission to Somalia at the Walalah Biylooley refugee camp, Mogadishu)



Progress report: July 27th planning meeting

On July 27th the 16 Days action plan committee (Nika, Nhabeela, Angela, and myself (Hannah)) held a meeting (at Sacro’s head office) to alert potential collaborators and partners to our intentions for 2017’s 16 days of activism between November and December. We were lucky enough to be joined by numerous influential organisations and institutions in Scotland, including, Scottish Prison Service, Widening Access, Widening Participation (Edinburgh Napier University), Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council (ELREC),  Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, Bright Red Triangle, and Sacro itself.


After Angela spoke briefly about the conception of our idea to take part in UN Women’s 16 days of action, Hannah gave a short presentation on gender-based violence (GBV) and its prevalence in the UK and wider world as well as our general action plan and list of themes to cover during the 16 days. The presentation featured a video on a few GBV statistics as well as a short message from the Director of UN Women on the importance of combatting GBV multi-laterally and collaboratively.


Following the presentations we had a stimulating discussion with the attendees. We discussed possible activities, funding resources, and partnerships. We also received a tremendous amount of moral support. Everyone was extremely keen on being involved and helping evolve this plan which began in a small room with four people sitting around a single desk. So, at the very least this meeting has shown that we are capable of filling up a much larger room with many more people (around a much larger desk). We look forward to seeing where this journey takes us! Stay tuned!

What is gender-based violence?

Whenever venturing to tackle a problem (particularly collaboratively), it is absolutely integral that such a problem is adequately defined.

So, what is gender-based violence?

The European Institute for Gender Equality defines it as such:

‘”Gender-based violence” and “violence against women” are terms that are often used interchangeably as most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women and girls. However, it is important to retain the ‘gender-based’ aspect of the concept as this highlights the fact that violence against women is an expression of power inequalities between women and men.’

To break it down,

‘“[G]ender‐based violence against women” shall mean violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately[.]’

[V]iolence against women” is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender‐based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life[.]’

Specifically, gender-based violence is:

Breast ironing

Acid throwing

Domestic violence

Female Genital Mutilation

Foot binding

Forced marriage/ pregnancy/abortion/prostitution

Human trafficking

Bride burning

Dowry death

Honour killing




Sexual assault

Rape (date, gang, genocidal, war, marital, etc.)

Sexual slavery

And the list goes on. All of these things affect women and girls exclusively or disproportionately. These are terrifying and, perhaps, foreign concepts to many people. But, perhaps, the most important thing to understand about much of gender-based violence is how normalised it can be. Many women and, particularly, young girls who are victims of such violence continue to think that they have never experienced gender-based violence. This is because many forms of gender-based violence is ingrained in societies around the world. In many cases, such violence is even protected by law. This varies in extremes and from country to country. But women around the world (rich, poor, all ethnicities, and from first to third world countries,) endure some form of normalisation of violence against them. Which makes gender-based violence exponentially more dangerous.

I’ll leave you with an extremely powerful video entitled Dear Daddy that explores this normalisation and how it is up to us all, men and women, to break the cycles of normalisation that allow gender-based violence to continue in our countries, schools, neighbourhoods, and homes.