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Even though FGM is mostly practised in certain parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, it affects girls and women around the globe – including Europe.
In Europe, FGM is prevalent among certain diaspora-communities originating from countries where the practice of FGM is widespread. Therefore, depending on the number of migrants originating from a country with high FGM prevalence, the number of women affected by or girls at risk of FGM varies between the Member States of the European Union.
The exact number of women and girls living with FGM in Europe is still unknown, but the European Parliament estimates that there are around 500,000 girls and women currently living in the EU who already have undergone FGM, with another 180,000 at risk of being subjected to the practice.
As CHANGE Plus aims at promoting behaviour change towards the abandonment of FGM in practising communities across the EU, these girls and young women at risk are the direct beneficiaries of this project.
In order to achieve its ambitious goals, CHANGE Plus is, in several respects, based on a highly innovative approach.
Firstly, the project builds on the multiplier approach of the previous CHANGE project by training persons of influence from practising communities as so-called CHANGE Agents: 48 persons from different African communities in four European countries will be recruited by the partner organisations and trained on issues related to FGM. Afterwards, they will act as multipliers and sensitise their communities to legal, cultural, religious, social and health dimensions of FGM in order to promote behaviour change.
Secondly, the project targets not only practising communities, but also the institutional level. Selected CHANGE Agents of the previous CHANGE project will pass a special Leadership training to become so-called CHANGE Champions, which will enable them to advocate the support of survivors and the protection of girls at risk by seeking dialogue with key professionals and politicians at the local, national and European level.
Thirdly, the project is built on a broad transnational partnership between six experienced NGOs working towards the abolition of FGM, the European Network End FGM, the Coventry University and two associated partners in Burkina Faso and Mali.
Each of these partners will contribute to the implementation of CHANGE Plus: TERRE DES FEMMES is coordinating the project and will also train CHANGE Agents. APF and Equipop will train CHANGE Agents as well. Stiftung Hilfe mit Plan and FSAN, both of whom were already part of the previous CHANGE project, will train both CHANGE Agents and CHANGE Champions.
The Coventry University will be assessing the communities’ readiness for change regarding FGM. The results of this community mapping will allow us to tailor the behaviour change activities exactly to the needs of every single target group and thus increase their chances of success significantly. Furthermore, Coventry University will be evaluating all activities and reassess the communities once the activities have been implemented. This evaluation process will make an important contribution to the academic research on the transformation of social norms related to FGM.
The End FGM European Network will play a key role in disseminating the project’s results to EU policy-makers, its member organisations and to the public.
AIDOS will mainly be responsible for disseminating information in Italy and will support the project furthermore.
The associated partner organisations, Bangr Nooma in Burkina Faso and Plan International in Mali will participate in the project by sharing their materials and experiences in the community-based work against FGM with all partners, specifically the CHANGE Agents and Champions. Both partners have long-standing experience in promoting the abandonment of FGM and apply similar community-based methods. The exchange of experiences will contribute to building bridges between the continents.