By Anj Handa

There’s a drama that many people are talking about right now. It’s called Three Girls and is a TV series based on the true stories of victims of grooming and sexual abuse in Rochdale. The series made harrowing viewing.

It wasn’t just me who felt affected – I’ve been reading outpourings by friends across social media. Some couldn’t bear to watch, others now feel compelled to do something, but don’t know what.

Sometimes people don’t feel ready to become involved in these challenging subjects. They feel they don’t know enough, or that they might say the wrong things. This is where I advise you to just start!

Start by doing something, even if it’s as simple as following relevant support organisations and sharing their work. Begin somewhere, even if just to educate yourself about the subject. Speak up, even if it feels scary. Click To Tweet If you don’t start, you will never know which ripples you can create.

My changemaking journey

My campaign work on ending Female Genital Mutilation is now well-documented in the media, but it was almost twenty years in the making. The seed was planted around 2000 when I read Desert Flower, the true story of UN FGM Ambassador and supermodel, Waris Dirie.

I was horrified, but wasn’t moved to act at that time, simply because the issue felt too big and I didn’t know what to do. Overwhelm can frequently get in the way of change making. But by taking a small step, then another and another, it’s amazing what you can achieve.

Using social media to campaign

This was a time before we had social media, which I consider a great tool for mobilising people on a large scale when used effectively. Fast forward to 2013, when I watched The Cruel Cut, a documentary on FGM featuring campaigners Leyla Hussain and Nimko Ali and QC Felicity Gerry. I know all of them personally now.

I started off by following them and others involved in campaign work on Twitter and also urged friends to watch the documentary. Just a few months later came an introduction by a friend to the family I would end up campaigning for. My Change.org petition went global. It wasn’t planned and my own self-limiting beliefs might have held me back if it hadn’t taken on a life of its own by then.

Bring your skills to the table

Individuals have written that they don’t feel equipped to do anything. They feel they don’t have the knowledge or experience of people working in grassroots organisations, such as social workers, counsellors and health workers. You don’t need to be an expert. Just ask those over-worked, under-resourced professionals how you can support their work.

We all have professional skills that we can offer. One of the key outcomes achieved once the campaign was over was to produce a report into the Scale of FGM in Leeds. My business partner, Dr Jean Garrod, has the data interpretation skills to model and present the necessary information.

My core skills are communication and stakeholder engagement, so my role was to talk to grassroots organisations about the report. I encouraged them to use its findings when writing tenders for much-needed funding.

I also used various platforms to spread the word. These included public sector events and even the stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse following a play about a refugee boy called Nine Lives.

Inspiring Women Changemakers is set up to bring people together to effect positive social change. We do this by drawing on our collective skills, resources and networks. Join us!

Anj Handa is the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers. She helps women to speak up: for themselves, for others & for social issues.