Orchid Project was founded in June 2010 by Julia Lalla-Maharajh and gained official UK charitable status in April 2011. Julia was volunteering in Ethiopia when she first came across the practice of FGC, and was galvanised into taking action. Having witnessed for herself how widespread and damaging the practice was in just one country, she returned to the UK determined to help bring about an end to FGC. After volunteering with various charities and NGOs already working on the practice, in order to find out more about FGC, Julia threw herself into her new role as an ambassador for ending FGC. What followed were stints on the Trafalgar Square Plinth to raise awareness, a YouTube competition for a human rights campaigner to attend the World Economic Forum, and a trip to Davos after her three minute video won her a place in a global vote. At the forum Julia participated in a panel to discuss and debate the issue of FGC with the head of UNICEF, Amnesty International, and the UN Foundation. The debate was facilitated by Half the Sky co-author, Nick Kristof.
The main question brought to Julia at Davos was, “what can we do to end FGC?” and she found the answer to this after visiting Tostan, a Senegal-based NGO, in early 2011. Tostan’s community empowerment based education programme has helped lead to the widespread abandonment of FGC in communities across West Africa, and for the first time, Julia was coming into contact with people who were talking openly about the practice, rather than about FGC in terms of being a taboo. Returning from Senegal she realised that in order to bring about real change, setting up a charity with the sole purpose of ending FGC was the right course of action, and in 2011 Orchid Project was founded in order to fulfil this role.
Orchid Project has a vision…
Of a world free from female genital cutting. To achieve this they:
Advocate to ensure stakeholders resource and prioritise an end to FGC
Communicate the potential to end FGC within a generation and raise awareness about how, why and where FGC happens
Partner with organisations that deliver a sustainable, proven end to FGCSee more