Our Herstory

Our Herstory

Our herstory, 35+ years on

1981 – 1983

We are founded by Efua Dorkenoo OBE. Building on her FGM advocacy work she played a pivotal role in conceptualising FGM as a human rights issue and a violation of women and children’s rights within the United Nations frameworks.


We were formally registered as a charity, and lead the campaign to have FGM criminalised and lobbied for the UK’s first law against FGM – The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act.


We released ‘Out of Sight Out of Mind?: Survey into Inter-Agency Policies and Procedures Relating to FGM in England and Wales’ – the first ever data gathered on how many women and girls are affected by FGM and how cases were being managed in the UK.


We held the first Study Conference on Female Genital Mutilation of Girls in Europe which was attended by professionals from all over Europe and as far as Canada.

We helped establish the first African Well-Women Clinic at the Northwick Park Hospital in London, which was the first to provide specialist FGM services in the UK.


We played a key role as one of the two non-governmental organisations called upon to assist the World Health Organisation (WHO) in developing a resolution on FGM and Harmful traditional practices.


Our founder Efua Dorkenoo published ‘Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation – The Practice and Its Prevention’ – the first book to cover comprehensive studies on FGM and is still recognised as a valuable resource today. In 2002, the book was voted one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century.


We launched our first programme in Africa, in The Gambia. The project implemented the first alternative rites of passage without cutting approach. Within just a year of the project, our partner, The Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment, documented a 40% drop in girls undergoing FGM in the Fulladu and Niamina Districts.


We launched the first Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, in partnership with Save the Children, Anti-Slavery International, and CHANGE, and IPPF. The forum focused on early and forced marriage, non-consensual sex in marriage, domestic and family violence, and FGM.

We established the sister organisation ‘FORWARD-Nigeria’ to address maternal health in Nigeria. Our partnership lasted 10 years and focused on supporting women affected by obstetric fistula.


We launched our first project mobilising and engaging men against FGM in Africa.


  • 2007

    We conducted the first prevalence study on FGM in the UK

    A Statistical Study to Estimate the Prevalence of FGM in England and Wales. It is the first FGM prevalence study and provided baseline information for anybody working with FGM in the UK.

  • 2013

    We organised the first East Africa Conference on Child Marriage

    The first ever regional conference for national organisations on child marriage in East Africa. We organised the conference along with our partner Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF), which was attended by 14 different countries.

  • 2016

    We won the Community Health Development Award

    Award received for our Schools Programme work at the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)


The report ‘Early Marriage: Whose Right to Choose? was published by the Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, of which FORWARD is a contributing member. The report explores the issue of child marriage, the international instruments being contravened and suggests measures that can be taken to bring to an end this abusive practice. The report was one of the first publications to consider the issue of child marriage.


Our founder, Efua Dorkeenoo, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for setting up FORWARD and for the achievements made by the organisation towards the elimination of FGM.

We organised the first ever conference on child marriage in West Africa, in Burkina Faso. The conference was attended by representatives from 6 African countries. The conference led to the Ouagadougou Declaration on Child Marriage,  signed by Sudan, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ghana.


The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 was enacted, closing loopholes in the 1985 FGM law that allowed guardians to take girls abroad to undergo FGM. The Act was was launched by David Blunkett in the FORWARD offices to recognise our extraordinary contribution in getting the extraterritoriality clause added to the law.


We organised the UK premiere of the award-winning film ‘Moolaadé’ along with the film Director, Ousmane Sembène and lead actress Fatoumata Coulibaly.

We launched young women’s programmes in six African countries to upscale our impact and create a critical mass of empowered women and girls advancing human rights.


We launched Young People Speak Out! FORWARD’s youth programme to nurture a new generation of activists.


We launched ‘A Statistical Study to Estimate the Prevalence of FGM in England and Wales’ at the House of Lords. It is the first prevalence study of its kind and provides baseline data for anyone working with FGM in the UK.


We conducted our first Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation Research (PEER) in London entitled ‘FGM is always with us: Experiences, Perceptions and Beliefs of Women Affected by Female Genital Mutilation.’

END FGM European Campaign begun with FORWARD as the UK partner.


We became a member of ‘Girl’s not Brides’ – a global partnership of over 550 organisations in 70 countries worldwide

FORWARD published its first participatory ethnographic evaluation research (PEER) in Tanzania.  Entitled Voices of Child Brides and Child Mothers in Tanzania: A PEER Report on Child Marriage.


We co-founded The Tanzania Ending Child Marriage Network, along with our partner Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF) to provide a platform for over 21 organisations to engage in policy advocacy, campaigning, and action to end child marriage.


FORWARD and AVAAZ delivered a petition with over 70,000 signatures to Lynne Featherstone’s (Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and former Equalities Minister), calling for stronger action on FGM in UK.

FORWARD and Avaaz deliver petition

Photograph by Felix Clay.


We co-founded the ‘End FGM European Network’ (11 organisations across 10 countries). Our Executive Director, Naana Otoo-Oyortey, became president of the network.


We won the ‘Charity Award’ for our work on FGM awareness initiatives in schools – an award in the Healthcare and Medical Research Category.


We won the Community Health Development Award for our Schools Programme work at the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Health & Wellbeing Awards 2016.

FORWARD with judges at the Royal Society for Public Health Awards 2016

RSPH Awards Dinner 2016. Picture by: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

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