FORWARD was founded in 1983 by Efua Dorkenoo, who started FORWARD as a working group within the human rights organisation The Minority Rights Group. Its focus was to raise the issue of [Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)] as a human rights issue. With the recognition she gained from her work with this organisation, Efua Dorkenoo decided to establish an independent organisation which would undertake field work, research and publishing around the issue of women's health.
FORWARD became an official charity in 1985 and FORWARD has since been recognised as a leader in the field of working and campaigning for the elimination of female genital mutilation. FORWARD has been a pioneer in promoting innovative strategies and community-orientated approaches towards the prevention and abandonment of FGM. FORWARD have been at the forefront of influencing health, legislation, and child protection policy in the UK, and programmes and initiatives in multiple African countries including Nigeria, Kenya and the Gambia have contributed to positive policy and practice changes in Africa.