During the last months, CHANGE Agents in four European countries were trained to promote behaviour change towards the abandonment of FGM in practising communities within the European Union. The 48 CHANGE Agents – women and men belonging to various diaspora communities and to different social and age groups – were trained by APF in Portugal, by Equipop in France, by FSAN in the Netherlands, and by TDF (Berlin) and Plan (Hamburg) in Germany.
On February 25, the CHANGE Agents in Berlin got together for an exchange meeting. Fadhumo Musa Afrah had already conducted her three behaviour change activities in January and February and now reported on the intra-communal discussion on FGM that she initiated. Fadhumo pointed out that the challenges for organizing the behaviour change activities lay mostly in the difficulty to mobilize community members to discuss FGM and join a meeting.
Within the project CHANGE Plus the CHANGE Agents and CHANGE Champions in Hamburg made a thirteen-minute awareness raising video about the situation of FGM survivors in Germany. The film was produced together with the CHANGE Plus partner organisation Stiftung Hilfe mit Plan in Hamburg.
The CHANGE Agents and Champions themselves developed the film’s concept, wrote the screenplay, and played characters in the plot.
On February 24, 2017, the Coventry University hosted the Evaluation Meeting for Project Partners of the CHANGE Plus project on its Campus in London. The European project partners – AIDOS, APF, Coventry University, End FGM, FSAN, Plan Stiftung, and TERRE DES FEMMES – shared updates about their project activities of the last six months and discussed upcoming activities and tasks.
On February 6, 2017, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, TERRE DES FEMMES invited more than one hundred experts from different professional fields such as medicine, counselling, justice, asylum and child protection to a symposium held in the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BFSFJ) in Berlin. Directly before the official beginning of the symposium, TERRE DES FEMMES held a press conference about CHANGE Plus in the ministry´s rooms. Tiranke Diallo represented the other CHANGE Agents on the podium and answered the many questions the press had on the project. The press conference was a great success, as it was very well attended and the CHANGE Plus project extensively covered by media representatives from all over Germany.
On January 11, 2017, the first exchange meeting between the Agents of the CHANGE Plus project took place. The first phase of the project, during which the CHANGE Agents were trained to conduct awareness-raising work in their communities, has been completed in December 2016. Now, the project launches into its next phase. During the next months, each of the CHANGE Agents will carry out three activities in his or her community in order to educate the community members about different dimensions of female genital mutilation. These activities will be accompanied by ten exchange meetings, during which the Agents can exchange experiences with each other and thus learn from each other, but also receive ongoing support from the project trainers.
For TERRE DES FEMMES’ first exchange meeting on January 11, an instruction session about dealings with the press was scheduled with media expert and head of TDF´s public relations and press department, Marion Brucker. Marion provided valuable advice for the Change Agents: on how to deal with the press in general as well as on how to present their activities towards it.
The CHANGE Agents had many questions on the subject: for instance, how to make sure that information shared with the press gets displayed correctly. Marion answered all of the Agents questions in detail and gave many examples for a better understanding. Marion also shared some important advice on how to behave in front of a camera, which undoubtedly will be a great help for the Agents during interviews.
Within the CHANGE Plus project, the brochure “Responding to Female Genital Mutilation: A Guide for Key Professionals”, developed within the previous CHANGE project, has been updated and translated in three new languages: French, Italian and Portuguese. The Dutch and the German brochure have been reprinted for further dissemination and awareness raising. In addition, a EU-wide version of the brochure has been developed with an additional part on EU legislation and strategies.
The prevention brochure is designed as a practical tool for frontline professionals in contact with people from FGM practicing communities. It provides specific legal and contextual information as well as a selection of appropriate behavior toward girls and women at risk or having already undergone FGM. Furthermore it shows the responsibilities of key-professionals and highlights strategies to protect girls at risk and help abandoning FGM.
In July 2016, Plan International started the CHANGE Agent Training in Hamburg. The training sessions, which are part of the CHANGE Plus Project, focus on different behaviour change steps, such as terminology, communication about FGM/C in families, religious beliefs, and choice and consent. Gwladys Awo, project coordinator and community manager of Plan International, is leading the trainings.
The CHANGE Agents come from different countries like Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Afghanistan. Following the trainings, they will do sensibilisation and intervention activities concerning FGM/C within their diaspora communities. So far, the CHANGE Agents have learned about Gender and Women’s Rights, FGM/C and Legal Issues, Communication Skills and Conflict Management, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Health Issues of FGM/C, as well as Culture, Tradition, Identity and Religion.