"We train local people to do local things... to approach local situations..." John Chua

Panel Discussion: Spotlight on Progress "Moving up the Agenda: Public and Political"

Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.

Profile of speaker: A featured panelist of this Spotlight session was John Chua, Associate Professor of Communications at Richmond University, and Producer and Editorial Adviser at Wadi, whose presentation was entitled "Power of Activists: Citizen Journalism and the Fight to End FGM in several Asian countries". From the Summit summary: "John is a trainer of citizen journalists who has taught at universities in the United States, Russia and England.  He trained activists and journalists in Iraq from 2009 to 2011.  More recently he has worked with Guardian media and BBC Arabic to expose FGM in Iraq.  Through his work in Iraq, he joined Wadi." 

From the University of Richmond website: "John Chua has written, produced and/or directed documentaries for PBS and the BBC. In 2007, while a Senior Fulbright Scholar teaching at Moscow State University’s School of Journalism, he witnessed how citizen journalists and activists were transforming political debates in Russia. Subsequently he trained and worked with citizen journalists in the Middle East and Asia and produced for The Guardian.

He has co-written two Russian feature-length 3D animated films, Space Dogs (2010) and Space Dogs 2: Moon Adventures (2014). The former was screened in 140 countries and at the International Space Station. It was dubbed into 40 languages and won a 'Golden Eagle' award for best animation from the National Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences of Russia.

Wadi is a German-Iraqi NGO engaged in providing humanitarian assistance, clean water, women’s shelters, medical support and other services in northern Iraq.  Wadi created and leads a network of activists throughout the Middle-East and Asia working to end FGM.   It is expanding its use of citizen journalism beyond Iraq to eradicate FGM in other countries, including Malaysia, Iran, Indonesia and Oman.  For more information about Wadi’s Mideast campaign see their website here. See the full Guardian / BBC documentary which John produced here."

Strategy overview: Mr. Chua described training activists in the Middle East and Asia to use cameras so that they can take cameras back to their communities. His organisation edits and distributes the film footage to news channels as evidence. He feels that professional journalists are not able to get access to the data needed to get the story out. His example was that a journalist flying from New York, United States, to a village in Iraq could never get evidence from local grandmothers on the practice of FGM. Citizen journalists are useful for because they can talk with local people on a more intimate scale.

Because Wadi has been working in the Middle East for 20 years on clean water and other needs, there is a trust with local people, which was helpful in beginning to work on FGM ten years ago. Mr. Chua sees that kind of connection and relationship as necessary for work to go forward on the issue in other locations.

From the Summit document: "Clerics are important to reach to ensure that the FGM message gets out. We know that working with media and clerics is essential. Working with international press is also important so that national press also pick up the story. Examples from Kurdisatan where filming made congress change its mind about the legality of FGM."

From the One Year On document [PDF format]: In March 2015, Stop FGM Middle East spoke about FGM in Iran at the UN Women’s Commission on the Status of Women Side-Event. We also contributed a report on FGM in Iran in 2015 to the NGO submissions to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to encourage UN to officially recognise the existence of FGM in Iran. WADI and UNICEF supported Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq’s campaign against FGM tackling all sectors of society, including training midwives and police, providing village education, lectures in schools and regular awareness-raising films on television. WADI is planning to open a Research and Consultation Center for FGM and Reproductive Health in the Middle East located in Suleymania, Iraq."

Overview of this Summit session: From the Girl Summit summary document: "An exchange of experiences in getting FGM and CEFM onto the agenda and building public and political support to end these harmful practices. Lessons will range from local to international action, highlighting a range of approaches from networks and coalitions to campaigns and the media. Discussion will focus on key elements that have contributed to success, how to capture more attention and create more pressure, and challenges in keeping FGM and CEFM high on the agenda."

The speakers for this session are:

Introduction: Permanent Secretary Linus Awute, Ministry of Health, Nigeria.

Magreth Kibasa Children’s Dignity Forum, Tanzania.

John Chua, Wadi.

Dr Albino Francisco, Executive Director, National Coalition to Eliminate Child Marriage.

Elise Petitpas, Advocacy Officer, Amnesty International.

Naz Ahmed and Lisa Zimmermann, student and teacher - The City Academy Bristol/Integrate Bristol.

"The session is moderated by Saroja Coehlo, Radio Editor and Presenter, formerly Environment Editor and Radio Presenter at Deutsche Welle."

Footage of this (available below) and other "Spotlights" are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.

The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.

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