The Orchid Project

Tracy Pritchard is Director of The Fashion & Textiles Institute at Falmouth University.

Having Dawn French as our Chancellor ensures her staff are always on the ball when it comes to culture and laughter meeting hard-nosed reality. It was no surprise when a few of us were invited to her gorgeous home in Fowey one blustery winter’s Saturday a couple of weeks ago to listen to a topic that sits close to her heart: The Orchid Project, which is working to eliminate female genital cutting.


As thirty of us nestled into her dining room after being plied with a mound of mouth-watering cakes and a delightful cup of tea, Julia Lalla-Maharajh from The Orchid Project was eager to educate an attentive gathering. Thanks to Julia’s impassioned testimony, we soon began to understand the remit and range of the project and the incredible work they have already achieved so far. We were captivated, moved to silent empathy and respect.

The project, we learnt, covers West Africa including The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, and Mauritania, as well as Senegal. The Orchid Project’s tireless efforts over the years have helped to stop FGC in over 7,000 communities across West Africa, and the work continues. The Orchid Project partners with Tosten who run a human rights based Community Empowerment Programme that is delivered by local staff in local languages, ensuring that respect from community to community is maintained. Based around an established social mobilization programme, the message is carried by a team of volunteers who have already abandoned FGC in their own communities and who now encourage others to abandon the practice through a human rights based education.

After the presentation, the questions and queries, we were left in awe of what The Orchid Project charity has achieved so far and I know we all felt unanimous veneration for the volunteers, workers and organizers who have given so much of their time to such an exceptionally worthy cause. It was a heart-rending and challenging Saturday afternoon, and many of us left humbled, ready to stand alongside Dawn in her support of The Orchid Project.

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