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CHANGE Plus is a project aiming at promoting behaviour change towards the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in practising communities across the EU.
The project is coordinated by TERRE DES FEMMES and jointly implemented by seven European partner organisations and two African associated partners. It is co-funded by the European Union.
The partner organisations are:
The West-African associated partners are:
CHANGE Plus runs from 15th of January 2016 until 14th of January 2018.
The predecessor project, CHANGE, ran from March 2013 till February 2015 and has been implemented by Euronet-FGM, FORWARD, FSAN, Plan International, RISK and coordinated by TERRE DES FEMMES.
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.
Shortly thereafter, on Sunday, 22nd January 2017, CHANGE Agent at Berlin, Fadhumo Musa Afrah, conducted the first of a total of three behaviour change activities in her community. The activity took place in the rooms of Sharehaus Refugio. The activity was meant to raise awareness on the subject of FGM/C. For this first event, only women from the Somali community were invited. The women mostly came from the Berlin-Brandenburg area, but some even went to the lengths of travelling to Berlin from Osnabrück. About 15-20 women attended the meeting. They were motivated to talk about FGM/C and possible measures of prevention.
Fadhumo Musa managed to create a pleasant and confidence-inspiring atmosphere that gave the women the opportunity to speak freely and without feeling shameful about a subject that is generally regarded as taboo. The four-hour meeting started with a warm welcome and introduction to the topic by Fadhumo Musa. After that, an open conversation about female genital mutilation in general, the women´s personal experiences and the possibility to end the practice took place. All attending women were convinced that female genital mutilation has to be abolished and exchanged ideas about how to accomplish this.
After the official ending of the event, the participants had the possibility for further exchange amongst themselves. Fadhumo Musa´s next activity in the context of the CHANGE Plus project will address Somali men in particular and is expected to take place next week.
In TERRE DES FEMMES’ CHANGE Agent Training on the 5th of November 2016, the gynaecologist Dr. Christoph Zerm was guest lector. For over 20 years now he dedicated himself to FGM/C and is one of the few experts of this issue in Germany. Dr. Zerm talked about health issues of FGM/C. The Agents were very interested in his lecture and the pictures he showed; for example of one surgery he did due to a tumour formation as a consequence of FGM/C. Dr. Zerm answered all upcoming questions of the CHANGE Agents in detail, e. g. questions on FGM/C and pregnancy or on other reconstructive surgeries.
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.