A year ago sports development charity Cricket without Boundaries (CWB) came to me with what seemed a crazy idea. Would 28 Too Many like to partner with them to develop a project to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) using cricket? Yes, you read that right – cricket and FGM! Being from a cricket-mad family and now a committed anti-FGM campaigner this was an intriguing proposition.
FGM is a cruel, devastating and life changing practice which is a recognised human rights violation and extreme form of violence against women. Despite this an estimated 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM and over 3 million girls are at risk each year. That is equivalent to one girl every 10 seconds. We also need to be aware that this is not just a problem in faraway places. It is believed that 137,000 girls and women in the UK have experienced FGM and as many as 60,000 girls are at risk.
A new documentary film, WARRIORS, released this month, tells the back story to our project of how a group of young people in a remote region of Kenya have remarkably formed a cricket team. The film follows the team as they pursue their dream of reaching England, the home of cricket, and test themselves in the amateur Last Man Stands World Championship.
Sadly there is also a dark side to the story. The Maasai are male dominated, women have few rights, even to their own bodies, and girls as young as six undergo FGM and early marriages. These traditional practices have also contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS, and now many believe the future of the Maasai is under serious threat. The Warriors are using their new-found unity on the field as an inspiration to those off it, educating young people and giving a sense of belonging, support and hope. The film captures the Warriors struggles on and off the playing field. They face resistance to their campaign but this is a story of hope and how young people can lead change.
With a growing reputation in the world of cricket and beyond, the Warriors are even more determined to bring positive change and in February we ran our first anti-FGM project in the Warriors’ home villages. The mostly female team comprising amateur cricket coaches from the UK and Kenya included a nurse, midwife, teacher, psychologist, social worker and lawyer. At the start of the project they met the Elders to get their commitment to end FGM and also the local Commissioner and Head of police to make sure they would enforce the law and protect those at risk. During the project we coached over 1,750 children with educational messages about gender equality and FGM delivered through the cricket coaching. We also trained local teachers and health workers to be coaches for the young people and to ensure their safety.
At the heart of this project are brave young Maasai, male and female, working together for a better future. Through their sport and campaign they are reaching out to inspire us to join them and challenge gender inequality. We should all think what we can do to make our communities safer and more equal. Anyone for cricket?
Learn about FGM and how we can work together to end it at www.28toomany.org
Read about WARRIORS film and book tickets for screenings at www.warriorsfilm.co.uk
(Photo: 28 Too Many)