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.
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.
CHANGE Plus coordinators Charlotte Weil and Linda Ederberg as well as Idah Nabateregga, who will be training the CHANGE Agents at TERRE DES FEMMES and Gwladys Awo, who is responsible for the implementation of CHANGE Plus at Plan Stiftung, had the great occasion to meet up with the project’s patron Fatoumata Siré Diakité during her stay in Germany this week. This meeting was all the more refreshing as until now, the only contact between the project coordination in Berlin and the patron in Bamako had been via email.
Over the past months, the Change Plus team has produced a new Training Manual for facilitators. First developed within CHANGE pilot Project, the manual has been revised and updated. Its overall aim is to enable facilitators to conduct trainings for multipliers promoting behavior change in communities across the European Union. It is designed as a good practice guide in an application-oriented way and so presents several information on legal, medical, social, religious or cultural issues related to FGM through case studies, exercises, references and further resources.
The Training Manual is divided into 3 parts. The first one is an introduction to CHANGE Plus and to its Behaviour Change Approach. The second part gathers 13 modules on how to shape workshops and trainings, which topics to deal with and which exercises to employ. And the third and last part holds further information and resources on FGM.
The Training Manual will be also useful for community workers, NGOs, governments and other relevant stakeholders since it brings together various European experiments.
On 3rd and 4th of March 2016, TERRE DES FEMMES hosted the official kick-off meeting of the CHANGE Plus project at their head office in Berlin. All of the European project partners – AIDOS, APF, Coventry University, End FGM, Equipop, FSAN and Plan Stiftung – participated in the meeting and contributed to its success.
After a brief welcoming speech by TDF’s Executive Director Christa Stolle, all participants introduced themselves and their organisation, as well as their role within the CHANGE Plus project and their personal expectations for the meeting. This was followed by presentations on the over all goals and strategies of CHANGE Plus and specific elements of the first three Workstreams of the project, such as management and coordination, community mapping and project evaluation. As the training of the CHANGE Agents and the Behaviour Change Activities will be discussed in detail during the next meeting in Amsterdam this autumn, the project partners only discussed the call for applications for the future CHANGE Agents as well as their role and duties. Furthermore, the participants extensively discussed the new modules for the training manual and agreed on necessary revisions of the already existing prevention brochure. In the evening, the first day of the meeting finished off with a joint dinner.