After a story trailed in the Sunday Times about a UK Government fund ending FGC, it seemed that the question on everyone's lips was 'how much?' We knew that it was likely to be in the tens of millions, and in the female genital cutting sector that is an unprecedented amount.
That question was answered today in stunning fashion, as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DFID, Lynne Featherstone, revealed that the fund will total up to £35 million. This sum is breathtaking given that it is the first significant investment the UK has made in ending FGC. It is also the single largest international commitment to the issue and as such lays down an important marker in the movement to end FGC within a generation.
Quite rightly the fund seeks to address not only international development but also UK diaspora communities, understanding the complex linkages between communities in the UK and abroad. This too is a new approach that should be applauded, as should the research fund also included. Any efforts to strengthen our evidence base should be considered positive.
This fund is much more important than just the numbers of course. As well as the financial commitment, it also describes a new approach to how we end FGC. It views FGC as something that can be ended, a positive approach that looks for solutions that are working. I alluded to this in my post the other day. FGC is a massive concern, a worldwide issue with no easy approach to be administered everywhere. 30 million girls at risk is a hard number to contemplate, 140 million affected women and girls even more so.
But there is hope, and that most importantly is what this fund says. FGC doesn't have to affect future generations. As we know, communities across West Africa are abandoning - over 6,500 already. Community-led, grassroots movements are growing and abandonment is happening in greater numbers.
Of course we set up Orchid Project to address the lack of funding. But that doesn't mean the work of Orchid Project is over. It is only just beginning. We have to look to how and where the money is spent, and where it is best targeted. We have to ensure other governments and donors follow suit. But most importantly we have to communicate what is happening: what is working and why. Most importantly, we have to tell people about FGC and how it is ending. It is a day for celebration.