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Overcoming: My fight against FGM by Ann-Marie Wilson

21 January 2022

Pat Ashworth reads about a vision put into practice

THIS memoir is both an education in the grim realities of FGM from someone who has listened to three thousand survivor stories, and an exemplar of the sheer hard graft required to set up a charity and to keep it flourishing.

“Female genital mutilation” names the practice for what it is. “Cutting”, as the author points out, doesn’t begin to describe the grisly consequences of something that, the World Health Organization says, reflects the deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women, and violates the rights of children.

Ann-Marie Wilson spent years working for humanitarian-aid organisations in Africa — including basic training in midwifery — and trained in cross-cultural ministry at All Nations Christian College. “I believe my longing to end FGM was a vision from God,” she says.

Her charity, 28 is Too Many (the number of countries where FGM is practised), provides research, knowledge, and tools for those seeking to eradicate FGM. She acknowledges, “Over the years, we’ve found ourselves driving hard against the tide of cultural norms, beliefs, and imperatives.”

She writes too of the complexities of generating funds for a start-up charity: “Whenever people ask me, ‘What do you do?’ and I say, ‘I run an FGM charity,’ most assume the work is rewarding and well received. They do not expect to hear that it is often met with overt or covert opposition, frequently from the least expected places.”

The book reveals her to be a very brave woman. Living with late-stage, incurable cancer reminds her that “time is short, and there is still much to do.” She is an honorary healthcare chaplain, a lay pioneer minister, a disability advocate. Eradicating FGM might not come in her lifetime, she concedes, but “We have plenty of ideas for scaling up our work.”


Overcoming: My fight against FGM
Ann-Marie Wilson
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