Business trip to London
Published in  
September 17, 2018

Business trip to London

From the 11th until the 14th of September 2018, I was in London for a business trip. The main reason for my visit was the launch of a report on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and the law. A couple of weeks ago I received the invitation below from Thomson Reuters Foundation, 28TooMany and Latham & Watkins.

I was truly honored to receive this invitation. Over the past months, I have helped Amy and Caroline, two staff members of 28TooMany, on the sidelines with the writing of 30 (!!) country reports and the overall analysis. It was my absolute pleasure to provide them with my knowledge and expertise in relation to legal frameworks and FGM/C in the African context. I was very excited to see my name acknowledged in the report.

Joint research project

This research project started about 1.5 years ago. It is a collaboration with TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global, legal pro bono service that connects law firms and legal teams to NGOs and social enterprises that are working to create social and environmental change. In this project, the NGO 28TooMany was connected to the best law firms to provide them with free legal assistance.

The NGO 28 Too Many was established in 2010 by Dr. Ann-Marie Wilson to undertake research and provide knowledge and tools to those working to end FGM/C in the countries in Africa where it is practiced (28 countries) and across the diaspora worldwide. Their vision is a world where every girl and woman is safe, healthy and lives free from FGM/C. They effect this change by:

  1. Collating and Interpreting Data (Research)
  2. Influencing Influencers (Top down approach)
  3. Equipping Local Organisations  (Bottom up approach)

Their approach is to play a catalytic role in both and to base our interventions on solid research.

The 13th of September, the launch took place in the beautiful building of the law firm Latham & Watkins in the city center of London. I was very impressed that commercial law firms have spent so many pro-bono hours on researching FGM/C in Africa. In total, more than 125 lawyers all over the world invested their time and energy on this project, including lawyers working for Latham & Watkins, Reed Smith LLP, Shearman & Sterling, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie, Omer Abdelati Law Firm and Sharkawy & Sarhan. It was heartwarming to see the commitment of those lawyers, the staff members of 28TooMany as well as Thomson Reuters Foundation. I felt honored to be invited to lift a glass of champaign on this major achievement. In total, they drafted together 29 individual country reports, which are now available on the 28 Too Many website as well as one overall analysis report. This overall report can be downloaded here (or by clicking on the report below). The whole event was recorded and can be seen at this website.

This collaborative research project has been nominated for the “Collaboration Award” at the 2018 TrustLaw Awards.

Visiting other NGOs

I used my time in London to also visit other NGOs working on the topic of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. For example, I had a meeting with Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE, the Founder & CEO of the Orchid Project. We met a couple of years ago in Senegal, when we visited an 80-year old man (Demba) in the village Keur Simbara, together with Molly Melching of Tostan. We spoke for about 3 hours with him, and he explained how he has visited almost 350 villages to advocate against FGM/C and shared with us his experiences. Over the years, Julia and I remained in touch and it was lovely to have a coffee together again in their beautiful office 'the Foundry'.

In addition, I also had a meeting with Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director of Forward UK. I am currently involved in a study about FGM/C in Tanzania that we are conducting together. Over the past 10 years, Tanzania made progress in reducing FGM/C and this study seeks to answer the question how this progress could be explained and to contribute to evidence on what has worked to achieve this. I cooperate for this study with a local consultant working for the consultancy firm Hodari Tanzania in Dar es Salaam. Apart from catching up and having a coffee with cookies with Naana (and various staff members), we also discussed the progress of this study and next steps to be taken.All in all, it was a very successful business trip. I absolutely enjoyed t. I stayed in a nice Airbnb in an upcoming neighborhood in Londen, close to nice cafes and restaurants (the advantage of having your own company: no boring hotels!). ;-)

Thanks again for having me / the invitation to come to London and I look forward to our fruitful collaboration in the future!