30th Anniversary Booklet - Front Cover



Sharing Actions, Achievements and Aspirations: 30 years safeguarding rights and dignity of African girls



  • FORWARD was founded by Efua Dorkenoo, building on her FGM advocacy work with FORWARD’s predecessor The Woman’s Action Group on Excision and Infibulation.


  • FORWARD is at the forefront of campaigns to have FGM criminalized. After 5 years of lobbying, the UK passes the first legislation against FGM in the UK: The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act.
  • FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development) is formally registered as a charity.


  • FORWARD releases Out of Sight Out of Mind?: Survey into Inter-Agency Policies and Procedures Relating to FGM in England and Wales. This is the first time data was gathered on how many women are affected and how cases were being managed in the UK. FORWARD put together recommendations for social services following the report.


  • FORWARD holds The First Study Conference on Genital Mutilation of Girls in Europe which is attended by professionals from all over Europe and as far as Canada. The conference galvanised and strengthened the campaign against FGM, providing the impetus to get FGM recognised as a human rights violation and for activists to take it on globally.
  • The first African Well-Women Clinic is established based at the Northwick Park Hospital in London and is the first to provide specialist FGM services in the world. FORWARD provided background knowledge and support to set up the clinic and funded the position of a Somali translator.


  • FORWARD was one of two non-governmental organisations called upon to assist the World Health Organization to help facilitate a resolution on FGM and Harmful Traditional Practices. The adoption of this resolution introduced FGM onto the agenda of African Health Ministries.


  • FORWARD founder Efua Dorkenoo publishes Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation – The Practice and Its Prevention. The book was one of the first comprehensive studies of the practice of FGM and is still recognised as a valuable resource today. In 2002 it was voted one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century by an international panel.


  • FORWARD launches its first programme in Africa. The project in The Gambia focussed on women’s health and alternative rites of passage.


  • FORWARD-Nigeria is established as a sister organisation to work on maternal and child health in Nigeria. Our partnership continued for the next 10 years.
  • FORWARD-Nigeria initiates a project to help women affected by obstetric fistula. It is one of the first times that an NGO recognises the link between harmful traditional practices and obstetric fistula and begins work to support women affected.
  • The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls is launched to focus on girls’ and women’s rights in relation to marriage, especially the issues of early forced marriage, non-consensual sex within marriage, domestic and family violence and FGM. The forum is founded following meetings between FORWARD, Save the Children Fund, Anti-Slavery International, CHANGE, the Child Rights Information Network and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.


  • FORWARD’s project in Kenya begins: Mobilising men against FGM. The project, engaging men in Africa in the campaign against FGM, is a pioneering approach to ending FGM.


  • The report Early Marriage: Whose Right to Choose? Is published by the Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, of which FORWARD is a contributing member. The report explores the issue of child marriage, the international instruments being contravened and suggests measures that can be taken to bring to an end this abusive practice. The report was one of the first publications to consider the issue of child marriage.


  • FORWARD Founder, Efua Dorkeenoo, is awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for setting up FORWARD and for the achievements made by FORWARD towards the elimination of FGM.
  • FORWARD organises the first conference on child marriage in Africa as part of the Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls. Taking place in Burkina Faso, the conference was attended by 6 African countries who received advice on forming national action plans to end child marriage which resulted in the Ouagadougou Declaration on Child Marriage. The declaration stated that child marriage is a public health concern that disproportionately affects girls, that it is a cause and consequence of poverty and a violation of human rights and that each country should rectify legislative loopholes to eliminate the practice. It was signed by Sudan, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ghana.


  • The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 was enacted. This closed loopholes in the 1985 FGM law that allowed guardians to take girls abroad to undergo FGM. The Act was launched by David Blunkett in the FORWARD offices in recognition of our extraordinary contribution to getting the extraterritoriality clause added to the law.


  • FORWARD launches the UK premiere of award winning film Moolaadé with the film Director, Ousmane Sembène and the lead actress Fatoumata Coulibaly.
  • FORWARD receives funding from The Sigrid Rausing Trust and launches young women’s programmes in six African countries to upscale our impact and create a critical mass of empowered women and girls advancing human rights.


  • Young People Speak Out!, FORWARD’s youth programme, is established to nurture a new generation of activists.


  • FORWARD launches A Statistical Study to Estimate the Prevalence of FGM in England and Wales at the House of Lords. It is the first FGM prevalence study and provided baseline information for anybody working with FGM in the UK.


  • FORWARD conducts its first participatory ethnographic evaluation research (PEER) in London entitled FGM is always with us: Experiences, Perceptions and Beliefs of Women Affected by Female Genital Mutilation.
  • END FGM European Campaign begins with FORWARD as the UK partner.


  • FORWARD publishes its first participatory ethnographic evaluation research (PEER) in Tanzania. Entitled Voices of Child Brides and Child Mothers in Tanzania: A PEER Report on Child Marriage.


  • The Tanzania Ending Child Marriage Network is formed providing a platform for over 21 organisations to engage in policy advocacy, campaign action and to shape programmes to end child marriage. The network is co-founded by Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF) and FORWARD and co-ordinated by CDF.


  • FORWARD and AVAAZ delivered a petition with over 70,000 signatures to Lynne Featherstone’s (Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and former Equalities Minister) office calling for stronger action on FGM in UK.


  • FORWARD organises the East Africa Conference on Child Marriage; the first ever regional conference for national organisations on child marriage in Africa. FORWARD and our partner Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF) arranged the conference which was attended by 14 different countries.
  • The End FGM European Campaign becomes the END FGM European Network and FORWARD Executive Director, Naana Otoo-Oyortey, is made the President of the Network. FORWARD supported the creation and development of two new local, women led organisations in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone following our PEER research.