There is something undeniably wrong with people who feel that they're not feminists but they believe in women's rights. Or they're not feminists but they believe in the strength of women. Or they're not feminists but they believe that women shouldn't be treated like crap by men. Or they're not feminists but they want to feel like their voice matters.
This summit, attended by Heads of State, ministers and experts from all over the world is an opportunity to do so. While I am there, I will be thinking of women like Aliah from Yemen, who tried to run away from her new 30-year-old husband when she was 16, only to have her family beat her and force her back. Years later, those same widespread beliefs and traditions held in her community then forced her to marry off her own 16-year-old daughter. As we gather at the summit we must remember stories like these. These practices violate the fundamental rights of women and girls. Making child marriage and FGM illegal is critical. But it's not enough if nothing is done to challenge strong-held beliefs passed down through generations.
In more than two decades in the charity sector, I've been involved in a lot of campaigns about a lot of different issues. I've spent my professional life fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable children in the world and in that time we've take many strides forward in improving healthcare, sanitation and education systems. But it's rare that I've felt so optimistic about the potential for change as I do about the chance we have in the coming months and years to get it right for the world's girls.
Within any context, FGM is a vile and inhumane practice. For God-fearing Muslims, however, it strikes a particularly painful cord given that a small minority of the Muslim religious elite and their ill-guided flocks manipulate the peaceful teachings of Islam to socially, morally and even physically force women to undergo this harmful procedure.
I've been supporting an amazing lady called Afusat since the New Year. With her solicitor's help, we have followed all procedures correctly. Fresh evidence and recent case law was submitted. Yet two weeks later, a short response came back, to say that her case had 'No merit', that she cannot appeal from within the UK and that she must return to Nigeria.
Hold onto your horses, this is not a men-bashing blog; I just want to offer some (hopefully) constructive criticism on why many men shy away from discussing FGM and all other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG)... Before you attack me, I'd like to make it clear that I don't believe all men are guilty from shying away from such conversations and I certainly don't believe that all men who do avoid them condone FGM and other forms of VAWG. The point I want to make is that men need to recognise they have a responsibility to fight against such practices.
The public is increasingly engaged and motivated to act. The relevant policy is in place and front line professionals are being slowly equipped with the tools and information they need to ensure that FGM is streamlined into their child safeguarding procedures. There is no reason to continue to fail our girls.