Sheriff of Nottingham and Mojatu Foundation shares Nottingham’s City of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Model in Kenya

Valentine Nkoyo 1st August 2017

The Sheriff of Nottingham who is also the former Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Cllr Jackie Morris, her husband Reverend Andy Morris and Valentine Nkoyo CEO, Mojatu Foundation, paid a visit to Kenya meeting different stakeholders involved in the campaign against FGM while forging links between Nottingham and Kenya.

Following Nottingham’s declaration of Zero Tolerance to FGM in September 2016 and subsequent work done by Mojatu Foundation and the Sheriff in the UK parliament and the United Nations Conference in Vienna, the field trip to Kenya was organised to further the two parties contribution towards elimination of harmful traditional practices at the source country.The main aims of the visit were to learn and share Nottingham’s model, establish the current status and trend of FGM practices in Kenya. The visit also aimed to establish new partnerships and intervention programmes for engagement of Mojatu Foundation and to  foster links with a number of Key institutions in Kenya for collaboration in the fight against the FGM practices.

The achievement of our aims during the two weeks (22nd April to 7th May) included strategic partner’s meetings, a public lecture, workshops and direct observation. Additionally, meeting the cutters and community dialogue in FGM hot spots were organised in addition to literature analysis. The potential partners include the Kenya National Anti FGM Board, UNICEF, Councils of Elders, County governments, faith leaders, grassroots NGOs, public and private universities, colleges amongst others.

Despite the Kenyan government banning FGM in 2011 and setting up an anti-FGM Board in 2013, the FGM practice continues with over 90% prevalence in certain affected communities. According to the Anti FGM Board, FGM is still widespread but there are  17 counties regarded as hotspots in the country where continuous interventions are required. The delegation  visited some of the very remote areas including the Maasai Mara village  where dialogues were exchanged with the elders, community leaders, survivors, cutters and young people.

Councillor Morris said “My role during the visit was not to tell people what to do or how to lead their lives, but it was more to understand and reason with them so that we can find ways to help by working alongside communities and looking for alternatives. I am very proud to have represented Nottingham, the City of Zero Tolerance to FGM, where I shared widely on the stance we as a city took. I am pleased that we had many platforms to share and learn”.

The team’s reception in Kenya by different stakeholders was evident of the willingness to join hands in tackling FGM and developing links between Nottingham and Kenya.

“I was very touched by the things I saw and heard. Small steps can lead to big changes” the Sheriff added.

Having conversations with the cutters and families that openly support and justify the reasons behind such a harmful practice was evident that this issue is very deeply rooted in community life. The conversations revealed the need for very innovative, supportive and development oriented initiatives to change their attitudes and perceptions. However, we also spent time with young people, elders, families, former cutters and survivors who want the cutting of girls to end. Supporting such individuals to become ‘Agents of Change’ in their own communities and celebrating them is fundamental in changing people’s mindsets. Learning of interventions that work will also help us with our UK campaigns and work within communities.

Valentine Nkoyo, CEO Mojatu Foundation said “As a young Maasai woman who has gone through so many challenges and escaped early marriage to get where I am today, it was heart-breaking to meet a 16 year old girl, who was cut and married off to an older man as a second wife and now has four children. When I left her little dark hut, it hit me so hard that my life could have easily gone down that road had I not fought so hard and found my voice. Millions of girls across the globe are still in such a situation. I am hopeful though that little acts of kindness from people wanting to make a difference can make the lives of such girls and women better. I am thankful to the Nottingham City Council for supporting our work and especially Councillor Morris for her passion and dedication”

The success of the trip was tremendous. During a meeting with the CEO of the Anti-FGM Board Bernadette Lolojo discussing partnership and good practice, Nottingham City’s Zero Tolerance stance was discussed and she was very enthusiastic and committed to even go further and have ‘Villages of Zero Tolerance to FGM’ in Kenya. A visit to the Machakos County Government, led to the county speaker confirming a visit to Nottingham to learn, share and make an initial commitment to be the first Zero Tolerant FGM County in Kenya.

There is also commitment from several universities, faith leaders, politicians, Community Based Organisations and other persons of influence to work with the Mojatu Foundation.Projects would include research, training, advocacy, awareness, support and other women empowerment initiatives. Dialogue with different influential members of the affected communities at the grassroots levels helped in mobilising and engaging communities positively. We hope to continue working with them as the ‘Community Gate Keepers’.

“FGM is a multi-faceted issue with links to serious health related issues, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, school drop-outs and other forms of abuse and discrimination and therefore needs a multi sectoral approach to tackle it effectively and in a sensitive manner that engages and supports affected communities. This can only be achieved through strong strategic partnerships” Valentine Nkoyo added.

Reverend Morris said, “I only went to Kenya as a ‘bodyguard/bag handler’, however within 48 hours I realised just what a powerful voice the church has in the community.  I have started looking at new forms of dialogue where sex is something to be celebrated as opposed to being spoken of in terms of sin and condemnation. The church can surely find a way of talking about FGM openly and bring about positive change”

Joseph Ndaga, Mojatu Foundation Regional Coordinator said, “This is the right time for developing innovative solution to the elimination of FGM practices in Kenya and Africa. This visit is in line with the attainment of SDG 17 of fostering sustainable global partnership for sustainable development in Africa. All partners and stakeholders should remain committed to their promises so as together we can make this practice come to an end in our generation”.

We are appealing to well wishers to support our new programmes to support girls and women in remote areas in Kenya through education, training and other women empowerment initiatives which will be officially launched in December 2017.

We will be launching our fundraising for the programme in August.

If you are interested in donating or organising a fundraising event or crowd funding to support us, please contact Valentine Nkoyo on 07794372214 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Is the UK government doing enough to help refugees?

Tyler Gerrard, 27 June 2017

The global refugee crisis is simply too big for any government to ignore with there being an estimated 21.3 million refugees worldwide and an estimated 33,972 people a day forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. 53% of refugees worldwide come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria, with the largest number coming from Syria.

The UK government’s response to the crisis has been widely criticised for being inadequate, with a group of 50 leading refugee charities and aid agencies describing it as ‘not enough-not even close’. This may not be completely fair though as the government has pledged £2.3 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and neighbouring countries, as well as providing nearly £70 million in response to the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Furthermore, back in 2015 David Cameron promised to resettle 23,000 refugees by 2020, albeit critics would argue this figure is still far too low.

And while Germany puts the UK to shame in terms of the number of refugees that it has taken in with around 1.1 million refugees arriving in Germany in 2015, a cynical perspective would look at Germany’s rapidly ageing population and lack of young workers meaning that it requires refugees for economic reasons. It is also important to note the lack of contribution from Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic who have closed their borders and refused to take in refugees.

But take the example of Sweden, a country that has recently taken in the highest number of refugees in Europe per capita, despite having a population that isn’t in decline. The Swedish government has historically been very accommodating in terms of taking in refugees and so perhaps it could be argued that the Swedish government is simply more moral than the UK government. The example of Sweden suggests that the UK can and should be doing more.

Furthermore, the public as a whole are very much in favour of helping refugees and this can be seen by the marches that have taken place, attended by thousands of people. Indeed, in 2016 Amnesty International ranked the UK public amongst the most welcoming in the world to refugees. According to Amnesty, 87 per cent of people said they would welcome refugees in to their country and the British are the second-most willing worldwide to let refugees in to their homes at 29 per cent.

Clearly then the government isn’t reflecting the values and wishes of the British people and crucially the Amnesty International survey also showed that around 70 per cent of the public feel that the government should be doing more to help refugees. This sentiment is backed up by the fact that the government scrapped the Dubs amendment in February, which was a law designed by Lord Dubs that required the UK to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. The actual number of child refugees that were taken in under the scheme was only 350 and this represents a shocking failure by the government to help vulnerable children, in desperate need of help.

At the moment it appears that the UK government is doing the minimum amount possible to help refugees. Yes, it may be doing much more than some countries in Europe, but at the same time countries like Sweden are putting it to shame. The government has a moral duty to help as many refugees as possible, not least when it has the resources and capability to do so.

Interview with Rose Thompson, Founder of BME Cancer

Interview by Valentine Nkoyo 25th July 2017

So it’s lovely to have you Rose Thompson… finally we’ve got to do this! So to start, can you just tell me about yourself?

Well my name is Rose Thompson. I was the first person in my family to be born in the UK. Like most Caribbeans, my parents came here to help with the post war effort but also to give their families a better life financially. My father came over in the fifties, he was one of the first to come here and I was born in 1956 (I celebrated my sixth decade last year!).  I was born one of twins ( 7 minutes before my sister), my oldest sister getting to the UK aged just 15 months old, shortly before we were arrived.  Our family came to the country when a lot of Caribbeans in Nottingham were living in St Anns, so that was the first place we went to.

Upon arrival to the UK my father became a bus conductor.  My mother initially worked in a sewing factory and was an expert seamstress - previously she had trained in Kingston as a seamstress and set up a cooperative of six women in the Clarendon. Jamaica where she lived. - she’d always wanted to do that here. So once she’d started having children, when people didn't have the child care, she decided to start sewing at home. My father would help her to get the materials she needed and gradually word spread of how good she was as her work was of couture standard. She made most of the wedding and dresses for Nottingham people. My aunts then came over to the UK and two of them became nurses, some of the first NHS nurses. The NHS was launched in 1948 so they were struggling basically to deliver what they wanted to with a lot of people having been killed and injured in the war,  so they made an appeal to the commonwealth. When they came here they thought they would see the country like it was in films. I remember people thinking that the housing was factories, being surprised that toilets were outdoors and bathing facilities were the kitchen sink.

I realised the difficulties those nurses had in actually progressing in the UK. My aunt Jean Fairman’s name is on a plaque in the main corridors of city hospital for passing her nursing exam to a high standard. There were barriers at that time regarding career progression  - initially Caribbean nurses could only progress as far as State Enrolled as opposed to State Registered nurses. In the end both my aunt Jean and my aunt Olga moved from this country to progress because they were not really able to progress in the way that they wanted to.

That's my kind of history, but i didn't want to be a nurse. I had aspired to be a doctor.  So it all changed at secondary school, - you had to take an exam to pass your 11 plus. If you passed it you went to a grammar school and of you didn't you went to a comprehensive school. My twin sister had spent her days riding on bikes with the boys and climbing trees, so i passed and she didn't and that was devastating. For us it would be the first time we’d been separated. Some are trying to reintroduce grammar schools but I believe we all ought to have equal opportunities because i saw the impact of me going to a grammar school and her going to a comprehensive school on even just the kinds of jobs you could get, the exams you were allowed to take and your earning power afterwards. So i think everybody should have the opportunity because I think we have some very bright people who may not have the opportunities.

I was interested in a career in health but was put off being a nurse having witnessed the challenges my aunts aunts faced in career progression.  It was whilst I was at grammar school (there was no careers support service at that time) that I picked up a leaflet on occupational therapy, radiography and physiotherapy.

After, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor but seven years was a long time to  do training and you know, we had to earn in those days for ourselves as well as to help the family. On top of this, my grammar school was facing closure in my final year and teachers were leaving.  I decided to on radiotherapy after spending a day in the radiotherapy department of the local general hospital. I would recommend anybody who is wanting to do something to actually volunteer, to go and spend some time to see what they will be doing before they decide. There are 20+ places for radiography students who had studied together but only 4 places for radiotherapy students, the remainder were for diagnostic radiography. Another reason for my decision to choose radiotherapy was having read the story of athlete Lillian Board’s chemotherapy treatment. There are still very few black therapeutic radiographers - 99% of what we do is treat cancer.

In 2005 I spoke at the annual radiotherapy conference and noticed how few BME radiographers there were there - about 6 out of 200 (including me!), three of whom had been sent over from Africa to train here and were returning! Most recently I spoke at the 2017 Radiotherapy Conference in Newcastle as an invited speaker and noticed little change, at which point I did raise awareness that this profession needs to attract more diversity, particularly as we have a diverse population, and many languages. I encourage allied health professionals to value diversity and would like to see more young BME people take up the profession.

With reference to my Honorary Doctorate, it felt fitting that it should be awarded during July, which is Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month. I’m actually also on the management committee of Cancer Equality, the charity that set up EMCAM.

 

I hope they take that on board

Well they did this time and a few people commented on it afterwards. So i realised I could’ve been either the only black radiographer--apart from those that had come from other countries. My principal—I thank god for miss harper--she actually went over to the Caribbean, recruited some girls who wanted to train as radiographers, brought them back to this country and found places for them in Lincoln and Nottingham and different places to train them. Then they went back over and the Jamaican government—I don't know if they were assisted form here--set up the first radiotherapy department, I believe in the Caribbean, in Kingston. I actually saw what had come out of that when I went over in ‘76, that they had another department in Montego bay that they were developing. The girl that was actually heading up that department that hadn’t opened yet, was from Lincoln. She was a black radiographer and she did actually offer me a job ‘cause I’d been qualified about a year then and I was going to take it and I was writing back to offer my services when Lindsay my husband court me and asked me out.

 

Everything changed, he swept you off you feet!

Well no! We were friends for some time before and he proposed just before I was offered a job in Montego Bay (which I didn’t go for in the end). I had this plan that you know I would get the skills and actually… You had to, in those days, be qualified for three years before you got any progression. But there were no jobs in Nottingham because nobody moved. Because people didn't have benefits for maternity rights that they have now. I basically had a choice of either going to leeds—I was offered jobs at Leeds, Hammersmith hospital in London and Westminster hospital. And I chose Westminster because it was easier for me to get back home and in the last year of  my training was when we had the devastating news that our mother had breast cancer. My mother was articulate, she was the district women’s leader for our church, which covered from the east midlands right up to Yorkshire and Liverpool. So she was a great speaker and she was the first person in her family to join a pentecostal church.

 

You recently got an honorary degree. How did this come about?

This actually came as a surprise to me but I am very humbled by it. I will be receiving the honorary degree at a graduation ceremony on 21st July 2017 at the Theatre Royal organised by Nottingham Trent University. I was advised that this was in recognition of my work over 40 years that is linked to cancer services which includes my advocacy for people affected by cancer especially those from BME Communities. I am grateful because this continues to raise further awareness on cancer in general and especially high prostate cancer inequalities in black men.  The reports we previously wrote on this triggered a national campaign which raised awareness and developed the Check ‘Tings Out community clinic in St Anns which we are very proud of. Thank you Nottingham Trent University!

 

About Rose's work with BME Council & Hear Me Now Campaign

Although BME formally stands for Black & Minority Ethnics, those familiar with the organisation often pronounce the acronyms as Be-Me. This unique twist highlights the focus of BME Cancer Communities as it invites communities at large to see and put themselves in the place of the often ignored black and minority ethnic members of various communities. Dr Thompson's expertise in BME cancer has led her to both local and external positions; Dr Thompson has served within Europe's leading cancer and information charities such as Cancerbackup and Macmillan Support (Now joint) as the Charity's first black and Minority Ethnic Cancer Information Specialist (2003-2007). Furthermore, her 26 years clinical experience in radiotherapy and dedication to community awareness has been awarded with two discretionary points for work with BME Communities.

At the forefront of Dr Thompson's BME Council is the Hear Me Now Campaign. Hear Me Now's most recent annual report acts as a bridge between communities and health inequalities. Thompson's project brings awareness to marginalised issues such as the fact that Black and African men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer. Not only does the project drive awareness, it is important that it provides solutions. Workshops, presentations and roundtables in places like London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds have helped to battle emergent issues regarding BME cancer diagnosis and treatment. These workshops provide informative dialogue regarding the battle against late awareness, hereditary diagnosis and debunking surprisingly harmful myths such as the notion that darker skins do not develop skin cancer. Additionally, the project and report's innovative solutions and suggestions vary from proposals regarding the NHS Outcomes Framework, Prostate Screening, Community Engagement and the proposed 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign. Such findings and solutions envision a world in which collaborations between Health, Wellbeing Boards and community organisationers may work fluidly on BME Cancer awareness, patient experiences and thus address the racial and cultural inequalities faced by patients. Dr Thompson's personal family history of breast cancer fuels her passion and engagement; the validity of the black and minority ethnic cancer treatment and diagnosis experience is therefore a matter of primary concern. As chair of the Nottingham African Caribbean Health Network and the founder/coordinator of Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week, it is certain that Dr Thompson's imprint on Cancer research and support will be remembered and celebrated!

More Time and Money Should be Spent on Averting Crises Rather Than Responding to Them

Annette Leijenaar & Gustavo De Carvalho 29th May 2017

29 May is International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers. It honours the memory of UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives and pays tribute to all peacekeepers who have served UN peacekeeping operations. Since 1948, the year the first UN peacekeeping mission was established in the Middle East, more than 3 500 peacekeepers have died in service.

The UN describes peacekeeping as a global investment that provides a flexible and expanding instrument to help countries transitioning from conflict to peace. In 2016, its budget was over $7.9 billion – a steady increase from the $3.8 billion budget in 2005, but still a fraction of global military spending. In April 2017, the UN had deployed 112 911 personnel (military, police and civilians) from 124 different countries on 16 missions.

Peacekeeping is a cost-effective international tool to address conflicts. However, conflict prevention is the core purpose of the UN. This means the UN must consider how peacekeeping, in conjunction with other available tools, can (or even should) best prevent conflicts.

Conflict prevention should be the UN’s top priority, says Secretary-General António Guterres

Traditional peacekeeping could be considered a conflict-prevention tool, as it was designed to de-escalate conflicts or oversee the implementation of ceasefires to prevent the relapse of countries emerging from conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres says responses to conflicts should consider the entire peace continuum, from prevention through conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and development, avoiding ‘one-size-fits-all’ peace operations.

Part of the challenge of bringing prevention to the forefront of UN initiatives is the fact that peacekeeping is a costly initiative and highly reactive by nature. And, while conflict prevention has been rhetorically sound, it still requires further practical understanding.

In response to these needs, several initiatives have been undertaken by the UN to enhance conflict prevention. A number of reviews of its key tools on peace and security were conducted, including the reports from the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), the UN peacebuilding review and the global study on women, peace and security.

The imbalance between support for peacekeeping vs conflict prevention is expected to grow

The HIPPO report, in particular, brought back the idea of primacy of politics within peacekeeping responses, saying peace operations must be better aligned with the UN’s key objective of preventing conflicts, mediating peace, protecting civilians and sustaining peace.

Compared to mediation and peacekeeping, where decades of international experience have delivered lessons and principles, the prevention of armed conflicts is approached in an ad hoc manner with many disparate perspectives – diplomatic, political, developmental and economic, among others.

Peacekeepers can provide many lessons and tools to ensure prevention is more effective. In particular, the UN’s Joint Mission Analysis Centre can provide early warning to inform decisions taken by senior mission leaders. And the role of the UN Department of Safety and Security in providing analyses of security situations on mission, country, regional and global levels should as a matter of routine be shared timeously with those responsible for conflict prevention.

Peacekeeping will remain a cost-effective tool to deal with conflicts. But a more balanced approach which uses other available tools would honour not only the important work done by peacekeepers, but all efforts to prevent conflicts and sustain peace.

9000 FGM cases every year according to NHS reports. But is the government doing enough?

Rowan Windsor 1st August 2017

Royal College of Nursing reveals number of cases not falling fast enough and newly reported cases happening in the UK has risen since last year.

Last year the NHS reported over 9000 attendances to the service were involved in the identification and treatment of female genital mutilation. The breakdown of the findings report a total of 9179 were recorded in the UK in which FGM was either identified, provided treatment, or an FGM survivor had given birth. A total of 5391 were recorded as first time attendances; 114 girls were under the age of 16. This includes figures from both the NHS and GP practices.

The reported numbers represent only a slight drop in figures from the previous year by 44 fewer attendances. Head of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, Wendy Preston said that despite the growing discussion and concern over FGM “...the number of women and girls subjected to [FGM] is not falling fast enough.”, adding that the drop in school nurses in recent years has had detrimental impact on the effort to tackle FGM. It must be the responsibility of the government to attract and maintain the number of school nurses rather than cut local authority health budgets.

Preston added “Mandatory reporting and compulsory sex and relationships education are important weapons in the fight against FGM, and school nurses play a vital role in both educating children and young women, and spotting those who may be at risk”.

Preston also mentioned how “recent figures show the number of school nurses has fallen by 16% since 2010, largely as a result of government cuts. It is not right that vulnerable children pay the price for funding reductions and poor workforce planning.”.

Only 2385 of women involved in newly reported cases revealed the country in which FGM took place, reporting 1229 cases taking place in parts of Africa, while 57 cases took place in the UK. This is a significant rise in newly reported cases of FGM carried out in the UK compared to figures from 2015-2016 which recorded 18 new cases.

The acting director ofthe National FGM centre, Meg Fassam-Wright believes the data is helping provide a clearer picture of FGM in England; “It is important that the cases are being identified,” she said of the overall report. “These are often cases of women who have had FGM a number years ago. Their health needs and other needs are potentially being identified through the collection of this data, so we can plan for a better future because these women – some of them – will have long-term health problems as a result of FGM.”  Additionally, the report demonstrates the need for all statutory services to respond to FGM for both girls and women.

Fassam-Wright also believes that government cuts pose a threat to public and third-party sector organisations that work with FGM survivors and tackle FGM.

“We’ve got a number of discussions which are taking place at the present time – we are in the position where unless we get decisions about our funding by 21 July then the centre will unfortunately have to close.”

This fear follows recent closure of the Action African Well Woman Centre, a london based clinic for FGM survivors, due to a lack of funding. A government spokesperson said that the funding provided to the National FGM Centre (which was part of the £200m Children’s Social Care innovation Programme) was never intended to be ongoing, and instead expected to establish the service to help it become self-sustaining.

“Protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is a key priority for this government and a personal priority for the minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening,” he said.

“We have strengthened the law on this through the Serious Crime Act 2015. It is now an offence if you fail to protect a girl from FGM. We have also created a mandatory reporting duty requiring professionals to report known cases of FGM to the police and have provided lifelong anonymity for victims.”

 

If you are affected by any of the content in this article or for more information, you can contact Valentine Nkoyo, director of Mojatu Foundation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.