Orchid Project is a leading NGO in the global movement to end FGM/C. They work with pioneering grassroots organizations in Africa and Asia to provide communities with the necessary tools to make long-lasting, systemic changes to eliminate the practice. 

Transformative Change

There’s been growing recognition of how addressing harmful gender norms responsible for the subordinate position of girls and women in society is key to effectively eliminate violence against women. A gender transformative approach (GTA) creates opportunities to actively challenge harmful gender norms and power structures. Orchid Project reached out to us requesting to write a policy discussion paper to explore the potential of GTA approaches in future programs and interventions aimed at ending FGM/C.  The main question we needed to answer was whether gender-transformative approaches would have a potential to eliminate FGM/C. In practice, gender dimensions hadn’t been sufficiently addressed in existing programmes or interventions and – more importantly – might not be recognised by those who support and perpetuate FGM/C. Our paper aimed to promote in-depth understanding of gender-transformative approaches in the context of FGM/C and evaluate their potential impact. Our main objective was to share key learnings from other sectors (such as agriculture, health) and offer recommendations and conclusions for the way forward. 

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Our Methodology

We applied a qualitative research methodology and conducted extensive desk research reviewing academic literature, UN reports, and NGO evaluations. Besides theoretical considerations, our work included a practical look at GTAs through the voices of those who know best the challenges and opportunities in work against FGM/C: grassroots organisations and frontline activists. Through an online survey and two online focus-group discussions we captured their important insights. 

In our paper, we explain why FGM/C is a manifestation of deep-rooted gender inequality that assigns girls and women inferior positions in society. In practice, a GTA would mean that harmful gender norms and patriarchal values would be transformed into positive ones to increase gender equality and eliminate FGM/C. Despite the evidence not being conclusive, the experience in other sectors indicates the potential of this approach to achieve long-term, sustainable change. 

Our Conclusions

During our research, we found that interventions that are working simultaneously on different levels are more effective. An intersectional perspective is needed, addressing the links between gender and other social markers of difference, such as class, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, poverty and disability. Working with and supporting boys and men is necessary to embrace positive masculinity and to promote gender equality. True gender transformation is possible, but it's clearly a long-term strategy. It requires sustained effort, time and investments to change harmful gender norms and imbalances of power. To conclude our work, we provided recommendations on how different stakeholders (including funders/donors, researchers, policymakers, and civil society organizations) could begin to take action.

Following the publication of the paper, we organized three online learning sessions on gender norms and FGM/C, entitled 'An Introduction to Gender Norms and the Potential of Gender Transformative Approaches.' These sessions were attended by Orchid Project staff and implementing partners in Asia and Africa. During these sessions, we shared knowledge, ideas and experiences in relation to the potential of gender-transformative approaches.