The ripple effect – how a single introduction influenced city-wide services for FGM

The value of emotion and human connection in politics

Last week, Todd, a member of the Inspiring Women Changemakers Collective, shared a great TED Talk by political pundit Sally Kohn.

She says it’s time for liberals and conservatives to transcend their political differences and really listen to each other. In her talk, she reveals what she learned as a progressive lesbian ‘talking head’ on Fox News.

You may be surprised that she calls not about political correctness,  but rather, emotional correctness.

This talk had quite a few of us thinking about emotion and human connection. It no doubt influenced this great vlog by another IWC Collective member, Peg.

She asks “Why is anger in politics OK, but crying is not?” Why is one a more valid emotion than the other?

On this day of a surprise call for snap election in the UK, we feel that the timing of this message was right.

Peg Alexander is a TV & Radio presenter, Journalist, Speaker and Writer. Prior to this, she worked at a senior level for over 20 years as a consultant in the public, vol/com and multi-agency sectors. Her key skills areas are in public and social policy, campaigning, regeneration and service delivery.

Her skills are getting people to talk: seeking solutions for change, gaining buy-in, developing partnerships and engaging stakeholders. Contact us to hear how you can engage Peg.

My life-changing decision to campaign for a survivor of FGM – three years on

By Anj Handa

Three years ago, on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, I made a decision that changed the course of my life. I was in my garden and the sun was shining, but all I felt despair…

FGM campaigner Anj Handa with Afusat Saliu and her girls Since January of that year, I’d been driving a legal campaign to help my friend Afusat Saliu and her two little girls with their asylum case on the grounds of the risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on Afusat’s daughters if they were returned to Nigeria.

I’d been introduced to Afusat by my close friend, Pria Bhabra, who leads on Leeds City Council’s award-winning Migrant Access Project and who knew that I wanted to do more to end FGM.

Through the medium of social media, I’d enlisted the expertise of a few amazing women to help prepare the case:

  • Felicity Gerry, a top Human Rights Barrister based in Australia who mentored us through the legal campaign and continues to guide and inspire me to this day
  • Bhumika Parmar, the owner of small legal practice, BP Legal, based in Leicester, who led on legal submissions
  • Helen Duffy, a European Human Rights lawyer based in Brussels

Despite their professional knowledge and support with preparing the case, it still looked like the family would still be deported. What to do?

As I sat on my decking, cradling a cup of tea, I decided that I couldn’t let them go without raising awareness of their case more widely. Then I had a light bulb moment. I put down my mug, ran inside for my laptop and logged on to to start a petition. That’s when things snowballed…

Becoming a campaigner to end FGM

I expected that around 1000 people might sign my petition, but the public’s support for Afusat and her daughters was incredible. Almost 128,000 people signed my petition, enough to get the national and then international media interested in the story. You can watch one of the interviews by The Guardian here.

We got MPs to speak out and many letters were sent to Theresa May, including one supported by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and around 20 directors, playwrights and performers. This was led by Alex Chisholm, who worked for the Playhouse at the time and is now the co-Artistic Director of Freedom Studios, which I recently joined as Chair of the Board.

However, the Home Office was determined and whisked them off to a family holding centre down South prior to deportation. I got wind that they would be put on a Virgin Airlines charter flight and tweeted out for help.

Thousands tweeted boss Richard Branson and stopped the first scheduled deportation. This was particularly bad PR, since only a month before, he and daughter Holly had been featured in Cosmopolitan speaking up against FGM.

Sadly, the family were deported to Nigeria in June 2014 by another airline. Team Afusat mobilised to raise money to help them secure accommodation and schooling.

Creating a Community of Support

Through the campaigning, I met a few more fabulous women, who are friends to this day. Without social media and the power of networks I may never have met them.

  • Hilary Burrage, freelance journalist for The Guardian who recently featured Afusat and me in her book ‘Eradicating FGM in the UK’
  • Louise Robertson, then of 28 Too Many, a London-based FGM charity who has become a dear friend and got me involved in the Leeds launch of ‘Warriors’ film, a beautifully made documentary of young Maasi warriors turned cricketers who used their new-found profile to campaign their elders (and the world!) against FGM
  • Lizzie Spring, a fundraiser (and now WASPI campaigner) who travelled to Leeds on her own funds to offer help

There are a couple who I can’t name due to sensitivity, but they know who they are. There is also a whole group of men (too many to mention) in their 60s that supported my FGM campaigning and who still send me messages of encouragement on a regular basis.

What I learned

I am still proud of our campaign. We shone a light on the treatment of asylum seekers. None of this would have been possible without the collective known as Team Afusat. We showed that people will come together for a common cause. If we all do a little, it can lead to major change.

This was a traumatic period in my life, but led to huge personal growth and has brought me many opportunities that I couldn’t have anticipated. Change is rarely comfortable, but it brings precious learnings.

Following the deportation, my business partner, Dr Jean Garrod and I, put together a report on the scale of FGM in Leeds. We had determined that London and surrounding areas benefit from funding in this area, but that there was a lack of capacity in small FGM charities to gather robust data to evidence their tenders.

We worked with Leeds City Council and the specialist midwife unit to gather the data and presented the findings at a high-profile conference in the city. You can download the report here.

I’m also honoured to have been presented an ‘Outstanding Award for The Crusade against Gender-based Violence’ by Peacemaker International.

Inspiring Others

Below is an example of how my campaigning inspired someone else to follow suit.

I don’t know Anj Handa personally, but she’s the person who got me write to Theresa May regarding the deportation… I’m almost 5o and have never written in protest before, but someone has to say “This is wrong.”

In a digital age with ease of access to information and protest, where so many causes, so many voices and so much noise dilutes rather than engages, I have found Anj Handa to be a model of information who cares about people and their rights.

Anj Handa is a modern-day protester – she speaks from a place of positivity and the belief that she can create change. She has been a consistent force for changing attitudes towards FGM.

If I can bring about a movement like this, me – with no training, funding or track record of campaigning on such a scale, so can you. I created Inspiring Women Changemakers so that you too can experience the magic. Join Us?

Mind The (Gender Pay) Gap! Don’t fall foul of Equal Pay Reporting Regs

 Mind the Gap Equal Pay Reporting
 By Anj Handa

From 6th April 2017, private and voluntary sector employers with more than 250 staff will be required to gather data on pay under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. Similar regulations were applied to the public sector from 31st March 2017.

Why is this needed?

Britain’s gender pay gap currently stands at 9.4%, which effectively means that women work free for part of the year. It’s an improvement on the 1997 statistic of 17.9%. However, it hasn’t closed significantly in years and the UK has slid to 22nd place in global equal pay rankings.

An analysis by Deloitte estimated that if we carry on at this rate, the pay gap will not be eradicated until 2069, a whole 99 years after the Equal Pay Act 1970 was introduced.

What does Equal Pay Reporting mean for employers?

By 2018, firms must publish (on their own website as well as a government site) their gender pay gap, gender bonus gap and a breakdown of how many women and men get a bonus. Additionally, they must report the proportion of men and women in each of four pay segments, or quartiles, from lowest to highest pay.

What are the other implications?

The regulations don’t stipulate fines for employers who fall short of equal pay measures. This is effectively an exercise in peer pressure by naming and shaming companies.

But apart from internal repercussions, it could mean that customers, potential job recruits might decide to go elsewhere. Indeed, 65% of women and 27% of men said they would not apply for a job at a company where “men and women are not equally paid for equal work,” according to a poll by Glassdoor.

Under these new rules, companies do not have to provide a narrative with their pay data, nor are there clear guidelines on the level of data that must be provided. This could significantly skew results, especially where large firms engage experts to advise them on how to present their data.

Yet many employers are woefully unprepared, despite having had over a year to consider this incoming change to legislation.

What can employers do to prepare?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) notes the gender gap widens greatly from age 40 upwards (1.5% for 30-39 year-olds, 13.4% for the 40-49, and 16.2% for 50-59 year olds). Bearing this in mind, those who really want to close their pay gaps will look at their findings by:

  • age group
  • nature of the role (full-time and part-time)
  • parental and other caring duties
  • opportunities for flexible working
  • number of women in senior, high-earning positions

Giving women a sudden pay rise will be difficult for firms that have not budgeted or planned for this. By benchmarking and action planning, they will be able to take measured steps to start to close any gaps.

To discuss how our team can help you with your Equal Pay Reporting action plans, contact us here.