The Stop FGM Middle East & Asia campaign has been collecting data about FGM in Asia, connecting activists and supporting initiatives against FGM in Asian countries since 2013.
When in 2004 Wadi found first evidence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Northern Iraq, most people believed that this brutal practice only existed in Africa. We encountered much resistance when bringing the issue of FGM in Iraq to an international audience. It seemed no one wanted to believe that it could exist outside Africa – except Yemen, which was explained by its proximity to the African continent.
We concluded, in face of such resistance it was very plausible that FGM also existed in other places in Asia, but any hints and clues had been ignored. Soon, we learned that the Kurdish population in Iran was also effected.
So, we started collecting data. Searching the web and anthropological research, we soon found reliable evidence of FGM being practiced in Oman, the U.A.E., Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. In 2013, WADI launched the campaign “Stop FGM Middle East & Asia” with the goal of bringing FGM on the international agenda and forming a network of activists who could support each other.
We provided Unicef and UNFPA continuously with new information and research. We contacted numerous media outlets, correcting their reporting of FGM as an only African problem. We informed NGOs working on the issue and spoke at conferences.
In December 2013, we undertook a field trip to Oman to meet up with local activists and verify the evidence we had collected online. In May 2014, we organized a conference in Istanbul with activists and researchers from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia setting the start for a regional network.
In January 2016, we organized a conference in Singapore in cooperation with the local women rights organization AWARE bringing FGM to the agenda in South East Asia. Researchers, activists and journalists from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and India participated.
On both conferences some activists were provided with video cameras and trained by filmmaker John Chua. Thereby, footage was collected from different countries, contributing to the documentary “The Cut: Exposing FGM Worldwide”.
Realizing that governments and international organizations would only fully acknowledge the existence of FGM in Asian countries if they were provided with hard evidence, we initiated surveys. In order to help activists on the ground to do their own surveys within their communities we designed an online survey tool kit.
As the connection of FGM and religion was evident in the countries we focused on, we realized early on that it was essential to find religious leaders who correct the assumption of FGM as an Islamic duty or recommended practice. Therefore we collected Fatwas against FGM.
We have been supporting a number of initiatives in Iran, among them the Stop FGM Iran campaign, couple therapy for victims of FGM and a study on the impact of FGM on married couples.
The Stop FGM Middle East & Asia campaign has been supported by Hivos, the Wallace Global Fund and individual donors. We worked as partners with Orchid project on several issues.