"We started in 2008 with four girls who wanted to talk about this, at that time, extremely taboo issue [FGM], and we've since grown to a group of well over one hundred young people, including many boys." Lisa Zimmerman
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: Two featured panelists of this Spotlight session were Lisa Zimmerman, teacher at City Academy in Bristol, and Naz Ahmed, student, rapper, actor, and organiser for Integrate Bristol, whose presentation was entitled "From Bristol schools to national media and government ministers, UK". "Lisa Zimmerman is a teacher at City Academy in Bristol. She grew up in the USA, Iran, France and the UK, and has lived and worked in many countries. Lisa founded Integrate Bristol in 2008 due to her frustration at the lack of an effective policy and action around gender inequality, FGM and gender-based violence. Since then, she has managed a huge range of projects and the group of young people she works with have become an articulate and powerful force for change.
Naz Ahmed is currently studying for her A levels. Since working with Integrate Bristol, she has played a major role in creative and educational projects and been fully involved in the campaign to end FGM and gender inequality. As well as taking on one of the main parts in the stage drama My Normal Life, she has presented a BBC Inside Out documentary about FGM, has delivered numerous FGM awareness sessions in schools and colleges and spoken at conferences. She was also the rapper in Buckle Up and #UseYourHead, Integrate Bristol's new music video.
Integrate Bristol is a charity that works with young people and also campaigns to end FGM and violence against women and girls. Starting with four terrified girls writing poetry about FGM, it has grown from strength to strength and now has well over 100 members. Using a youth-led, creative and educational approach, the charity empowers young people to challenge, speak out against and campaign for change around issues that affect them. For more information, see their website here."
Strategy overview: A video clip from Integrate Bristol was shown: Silent Scream - use your head. (Click here to view this clip on YouTube.)
Ms. Zimmerman explained that four girls wanted to talk about FGM in 2008 and starting making videos and films about FGM. The girls began learning new skills through making films, an effort now called Integrate Bristol, including over 100 young people of both genders. When numbers of the group grew to 85, they organised a national conference at Bristol University with 300 invitees. Their ability to articulate issues important to them has resulted in increased media and social network attention, which has led to FGM being on the television programme Newsnight and FGM getting on the national agenda. After the Newsnight coverage, more young people began to speak out, rejecting FGM.
Ms. Ahmed explained that it was the young people who decided what would be done. In 2008, the girls discussed FGM through poetry. Thirteen of them made a radio documentary, followed the next year by the filming of the Silent Scream in 2012, which received awards and international recognition. She stated that there was, however, a backlash led by a staff member at the school, and, as stated by Ms. Zimmerman, no local officials were willing to speak on the topic. Since then, the UK government has joined the movement and brought forward international discussion and commitments. Integrate Bristol has gone forward with concerns of its members and creative ways to express them.
Ms. Zimmerman described progress under the coalition, but she reported a need for stronger reporting systems, especially in schools and social services where reports are received and need to be passed to the police for the protection of girls.
From the One Year On document [PDF format]: "Since the Girl Summit, our young people have been delivering FGM awareness in schools and training front line professionals in FGM safeguarding nationally. They supported several organisations wishing to start their own groups and are proud to have delivered awareness-raising sessions in a mosque and in two all girls’ Islamic schools in London. In the past year, our young people have spoken to 6,000 people directly and more than 30,000 indirectly. Last summer, we made a new, media-based educational resource for use in schools. In February 2015 we hosted a conference on ending FGM and VAWG [violence against women and girls] through education. 400 people attended, including teachers, head teachers, medical professionals, social workers and police and most of the workshops were delivered by young people. A group of our young women have also made a music video as a tribute to the late Efua Dorkenoo OBE, founder of The Girl Generation, reiterating the promise to continue fighting for an end to GBV [gender-based violence]."
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.