The Consultation Meeting For the Young People Speak Out Project

The Consultation Meeting For the Young People Speak Out Project

1. Introduction
In August 2006, FORWARD launched a youth consultation meeting marking the first step towards the implementation of the “Young People Speak Out project”. The aim of the Project is to provide a safe space for BME (black, minority, ethnic) youth to articulate their views and concerns and to receive interactive training and culturally sensitive education on gender based violence particularly Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child & Forced Marriage. The Project will include a cohort of youth, who will play an active role in the campaign by voicing theirs views and concerns about GBV including FGM and CM. They will eventually become Peer Educators who will go out into their communities to campaign against all forms of GBV including FGM and Child Marriage.

The 3 year Project focuses primarily on the promotion of the health, well being and human rights of young girls and women at risk of GBV within FGM and CM practising communities. The training sessions will take place in a youth-friendly and culturally sensitive environment with activities such as discussions, debates, video and film-screenings (incl. award winning film Moolaade), and group video-making workshops with the film company Banyak.

The Project, which is being funding by the John Lyon’s Charity, will work in partnership with various other organisations and agencies to develop an innovative youth-led campaign drawing on the knowledge and expertise FORWARD has gained over more than 20 years of working with BME communities in the UK. These organisations include the Westminster Refugee Consortium (WRC) who will assist FORWARD in reaching BME youth from FGM practising communities; the Brent Centre for Young People and the Sudanese Youth Club, who will publish stories written by youth in their magazine, ‘Bridges’. This added publicity will ensure that the Project reaches a broader audience within BME communities.

2. The youth consultation meeting
The first stage of the Project began with a youth consultation meeting held on the 23rd August 2006. The aim of the consultation meeting was to introduce the participants to the Project and give them the opportunity to voice their views and concerns and take part in the Project in order to increase their awareness on the issues of FGM and CM.

The consultation meeting was facilitated by FORWARD including various professionals representing FORWARD’s project partners as well as NGOs working with BME youth in London. The meeting used interactive and participatory methods, group discussions, debates and brainstorming to achieve the Projects aims.

3. Discussions on female Genital Mutilation (FGM) & child Marriage (CM)
Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, the Director of FORWARD, opened the discussion by putting both FGM and Child Marriage in their rightful socio-cultural contexts and explained why they discriminate against women and girls placing their health and general wellbeing in jeopardy. She then asked the youth to voice their views on FGM and Child Marriage. The young people expressed the following views:

FGM is practiced in parts of Africa irrespective of culture or religion CM takes place because some men want to marry virgins
Religion is used as an excuse to practice FGM CM may be attractive to parents in the West because they believe Western culture is too liberal
FGM is wrong, disgusting and prevents sexual pleasure for women CM is often practiced when parents are poor and have limited options
FGM is encouraged by older generations who are reluctant to stop the practice as it is believed to ensure a good marriage CM is practiced when it is seen as a way to ensure a better life for girls. Yet it prevents girls from attaining many things e.g. educations
FGM is used to ensure chastity and perpetuates inequality CM is not only practiced by Muslims
FGM is preferred by men in some cultures, but not all, and sustained by women due to social pressure CM was a common practice in Europe in the past
FGM can be eradicated through education resulting in attitude and behaviour change CM can be eradicated through education resulting in attitude and behaviour change
FGM should be challenged by youth CM should be challenged by youth
Adwoa informed the youth of the following points:

FGM is performed to ensure chastity and virginity and is different to male circumcision CM is defined as any marriage performed on a child under the age of 18 years. It is illegal and against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which every country has signed except Somalia and U.S.
FGM is differs according to where it is practiced e.g. West Africa the clitoris is removed (type 1 & 2) and in parts of East Africa the whole external genitalia is removed and vulva is stitched (type 3) CM is practiced because some countries believe it is sanctioned by religion
FGM affects women throughout their lives, during menstruation, urination, intercourse, childbirth and after childbirth when a women may be re-circumcised CM is practiced in order to protect girls from rape and pregnancy and is seen as a way to increase the family income and bride price
FGM does not prevent sexual pleasure because it is not located in the genitalia but in the mind. However, the sole purpose of the clitoris is for pleasure. CM also affects young boys but it mainly affects young girls with negative effect on their health, life chances and education, unequal power balance within marriage which may lead to domestic violence and marital rape, problems in pregnancy and child birth due to girls’ physical underdevelopment resulting in fistulas
FGM affects over 140 million women worldwide (WHO report). CM was performed in the past because life span was much shorter e.g. at 15 a girl would be halfway through her life.
CM has many negative outcomes and therefore FORWARD campaigns against marriage of anyone under the age of 18 years
Margaret Sesay, an African activist, also raised the point that as Africans we should respect our traditions and understand that they had a purpose. Parents believed FGM and CM were the best thing they could offer their daughters to ensure that she had a good marriage. However, times have changed and traditions should be retained but the negative and dangerous aspect of our cultures replacing them with livelihood skills to teach assertiveness, self-awareness, self-confidence, decision-making, negotiating, and communication, problem-solving and refusal skill. Life-skills will empower youth to become proactive peer educators and advocates for prevention of the FGM and CM.

After the discussion, two videos were shown on FGM and CM, and heated discussions followed. These were the general views of the participants:

Girls are taught to be submissive and listen to their elders unquestioningly There should be greater awareness on the issue of CM and knowledge about Gender Based Violence (GBV)
Women and girls are pressurised by society to have FGM performed on them Women and girls should be empowered through education and training to protect themselves and others from GBV
FGM is sustained by the community as women and girls want to conform to their society Men and boys should be educated about dangers of GBV and problems associated with CM such as Fistulas
Everyone can be involved in highlighting the dangers of CM, not just celebrities
4. Activities
Participants were divided into two groups, giving them the opportunity to discuss various ways and means to maximise their participation in various activities in the campaign against GBV.

Internet use of chat rooms to discuss issues on FGM & CM use pf chat rooms to discuss and raise awareness on issues of FGM & CM
Media use of radio, newspapers, magazines to bring issues to community and national interest use of radio stations e.g. Choice FM and other community radio stations
Performance use of drama, plays, poems, CDs and DVDs to highlight issues
Advertising Speakers’ Corner (Hyde Park), flyers, posters, wristbands (e.g. black b/ground with red footprints -“Moving Forward Against FGM“)
Logos use of wristbands (e.g. black b/ground with red footprints -“Moving Forward Against FGM), t-shirts sold to raise funds for campaign
Schools & Colleges talking to young people about GBV including FGM and CM
Education to teach youth about GBV sex education and reproductive health and livelihood skills
Youth Advocates speaking out about FGM and CM within communities, at local, national and international levels
Peer Education to pass on knowledge to peers within community so that they too can join the campaign and spread awareness of the issues throughout he wider community engaging with youth about issues of FGM and CM to recruit more members and participate with adults in the community a youth-led campaign to end GBV
Project Length 10 weeks training – youth to meet every other Saturday (11-3m). Venue to be confirmed.
Consultation Meeting5. Youth evaluation of the Meeting
25 participants (male and female) attended and took part in the meeting and 15 of them completed the evaluation form.

Evaluation of Consultion Meeting
(Results are in percentage terms)

Consultation Meeting – graph of results