Our Campaign Win

As Youth For Change, a group of young activists, we have a vision to end gender based violence within a generation. We firmly believe that education is key to preventing and ending gender based violence. As campaigners, we focused our efforts on Child and Early Forced marriage (CEFM), FGM and body autonomy. We ran a campaign called #TrainToProtect, which supports teachers with the right skills to identify gender-based violence in order to protect their pupils from harm.

Recently it was announced that relationships and sex education would be taught in all UK schools. In keeping with the principal that education is key to prevention, our most recent campaign ask sought to ensure that FGM and CEFM was included in the curriculum for relationship and sex education.

Our campaigning efforts were a success!


We designed and published a survey targeting students and teachers to gauge their interest in learning and teaching FGM and CEFM in schools.


Last year the Department for Education announced they would be holding consultations with different organisations and members of the public to create an inclusive and effective curriculum.

We engaged with this in many ways, including being the first group of young people who were involved in the initial consultations. In November 2017 We met with representatives from the department for education, including Alice Chicken, to outline our initial proposal.

We discussed in length why we felt that issues such as FGM and CEFM should be included in the curriculum and provided stats and data which demonstrate that young people were keen to learn about the topics, and teachers were keen to teach.


This was an exciting opportunity for us to engage with key policy influencers, allowing us to share findings from our Train to Protect report. 


In November 2017, our youth advocates Arifa Nasim and Larissa Kennedy where invited to chair an event in the house of commons, alongside MP Sarah Champion and MP Maria Miller. This event was an opportunity for young people to share their views on what should be included in the curriculum. This was another opportunity for us to highlight the importance of the youth consultation, as well as the transformative possibilities of good relationships and sex education.

Former Education Secretary Justine Greening was also present and supportive of the involvement of young people in consultation.

In January 2018 we attended meetings with the Forced Marriage Unit at the Home Office, and reinforced our campaign message.

Next, we got in touch with the Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, Carolyn Harris MP.

In February 2018 we met with Carolyn in Portcullis House to garner support for the campaign. After we presented our proposals as to why FGM and CEFM should be included in the curriculum, Carolyn agreed to ask a question on our behalf in the House of Commons.


We were so excited to see our campaign brought to Parliament. Here’s a short video of Carolyn in the House of Commons, asking Amber Rudd, then Home Secretary, whether issues like FGM and CEFM would be included in the curriculum, as a result of our meeting.

In August 2018, the Government published a “Guidance for governing bodies, proprietors, head teachers, principles, senior leadership teams and teachers” The guidance was published after consultations with a variety of groups including our Youth For Change UK team.

This was one of the first indications that our proposals were being addressed by the government.

Within the guidance, point 75 outlines:

‘Grooming, sexual exploitation and domestic abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour, should also be addressed sensitively and clearly. Schools may also want to address the physical and emotional damage caused 21 by female genital mutilation (FGM), where support is available and that it is a criminal offence to perform or assist in the performance of FGM or fail to protect a person for whom you are responsible from FGM. As well as addressing this in the context of the law, pupils may also need support to recognise when relationships (including family relationships) are unhealthy or abusive (including the unacceptability of neglect, emotional, sexual and physical abuse and violence including honour-based violence and forced marriage) and strategies to manage this or access support for oneself or others at risk.’ (Department for Education 2018)

Eventually, in February 2019, the government announced their intentions to include FGM in the relationships and sex education curriculum. It means that from 2020 the dangers of FGM will be taught to all secondary school pupils in England.


Education in prevention is vital, but Youth For Change is committed to ensuring that teachers are well equipped to deal with reporting, but also equipped to teach the dangers of FGM and CEFM effectively.

We also believe that students in primary schools should also be taught about gender based violence, to a level that is appropriate for their age.

As we outlined in our recent letter in the Observer.

QUIZ: Gender, Youth and the campaign against Gender Based Violence

DISCLAIMER: The content below contains information that readers may find distressing, This includes descriptions of Female Genital Mutilation and Child and Early Forced Marriage.  If you believe that you or someone else’s life is in danger, call 999 (UK) immediately, or the local emergency number in your country.

If you suspect that someone is in imminent danger of FGM or CEFM, you can contact the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151. A full list of organisations that provide specialist support can be found here.

The information below has been designed to provide you with comprehensive information on the issues we are tackling, and should form a good foundation for your knowledge on Gender Based Violence (GBV) with an emphasis on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child and Early Forced Marriage (CEFM).

What is gender based violence? 

Gender based violence and abuse is an umbrella term for any harm that is perpetrated against a person’s will. It results from inequalities that are based on gender roles and predominantly affects women and girls.

  • Gender equality "means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike." Gender Inequality predominantly affects women. However, both men and women campaign across the globe to address and challenge the consequences of GBV.

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child and Early Forced Marriage (CEFM) are both forms of gender-based violence, and are direct consequences of gender inequality. Youth For Change UK are currently campaigning to ensure that they are taught in the national Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) guidance, in order to empower young women and men to recognise their rights and to prevent further harm.

What is FGM?

FGM is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’ this can result in a lifetime of physical and psychological problems. According to UNICEF, an estimated 200 million girls and women today “could have been cut.”

It is a common misconception that FGM is only performed within certain African communities. It also takes place within parts of Western Europe and other developed countries. There are 4 main types of FGM and the NHS predicts that an estimated 136,000 women are affected by FGM in the UK. It is often carried out to girls between the ages of 5-15 but it can be carried out on a child as early as one day old.

The effects of FGM are both physical and psychological. They include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Complications during childbirth
  • Psychological trauma
  • Death 


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What is Child marriage?

Child marriage is ‘any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under the age of 18’ (Girls Not Brides). According to UNICEF 12 million girls under 18 are married every year.

It is a direct consequence of gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are somehow inferior to boys and men. It is a complex issue, and not limited to one culture or belief. It is established through gender inequality but sustained through other issues such as dominant masculinity, poverty, lack of education and cultural practices.

In many instances, the “honour” of an individual or their family can also be upheld through forced marriages, this is a prime example of “Honour Based Violence” (HBV). HBV can occur for many reasons, but in most instances, it is associated with the pride of a family, and how instances of “dishonour” can bring embarrassment and shame to an individual.

The consequences of child marriage are not limited to the domestic sphere. It can also lead to higher mortality rates: 700,000 girls die per year worldwide due to childbirth complications that arise from having a baby before their body is ready. Furthermore, evidence shows that girls who marry early often abandon formal education.

Credit Girls Not Brides


Gender based violence stems from the desire to maintain a status quo that has benefited those most privileged within our societies. Power dynamics, when threatened, are used to enforce restrictions upon those most vulnerable within our society, and this predominantly affects women and girls.

FGM is carried out for various cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities, in attempt to limit a woman’s sexuality and to establish and encourage a culture in which men enforce and maintain a certain status quo.

Some mistakenly believe that FGM will benefit the girl in some way, for example, as a preparation for marriage or to preserve her virginity. However, there are no benefits, and it serves as a way for males to maintain an established patriarchy and to exercise their perceived masculinity and power.

There are no acceptable reasons to justify FGM. It is a harmful practice that is not required by any religion and there are no religious texts that support it. There are no health benefits to FGM.

Child marriage can occur when a girl reaches the age of puberty, it is seen as a natural progression for them to become wives and mothers. It is also an opportunity for families to lessen their own financial hardships by transferring the ‘burden’ to another family.

The need to protect honour and maintain power is at the foundation of child marriage in many communities, as it serves as a tool to control female sexuality. This includes how a girl interacts with males, the clothes she should wear and who she should be married to.

Both FGM and child marriage occur without consent. Consent is giving permission for something to happen, or giving your agreement to do something. 

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Identifying GBV

How to spot the signs of FGM:

A girl or woman who’s had FGM may:

  • have difficulty walking, sitting or standing
  • spend longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet
  • have unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
  • be particularly reluctant to undergo normal medical examinations
  • ask for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.

How to spot the signs of child marriage

  • Girls being withdrawn from school, removed from a day centre or prevented from going into further or higher education
  • A decline in a behaviour and engagement with school; poor exam performance results
  • Girls being under surveillance by siblings or cousins at school

Peak Times where girls are at risk

  • For both FGM and child marriage, school holidays (summertime, in particular) are the peak time for young people to be taken overseas.
  • With child marriage, some girls are told they are going on holiday to visit family abroad, but in fact, a marriage has been planned.
  • Once abroad, victims are often even more isolated than they might have been in the UK and getting help is more difficult.


The numbers of young people at risk of gender based violence has prompted the government to introduce legislations designed to prevent GBV and to protect those already affected.

The Law and FGM

  • FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 due to the prohibition of female circumcision act and has been amended by the FGM act 2003 which tightened regulations surrounding the effects of performing FGM abroad.
  • Furthermore, section 74 of the SCA 2015 introduced mandatory reporting of FGM in England and Wales
  • This legislation places a legal obligation on regulated health and social care professionals and teachers to report any cases of FGM to the police under the following circumstances:
  1. A girl under the age of 18 has disclosed that she has been cut, or
  2. They (the professional) observe the physical signs which indicate that she has undergone the practice.
  • The harsh reality surrounding FGM cases is that there has been a lack of prosecution - in fact there has never been a successful prosecution of FGM in the UK.
  • However, it is important to keep in mind, what is most important is that there are preventative measures put in place and that affected girls and women get the help they need whether medical or otherwise.

The Law and Child Marriage:

  • Although there is no ‘mandatory reporting’ clause regarding Child and Early Forced marriage, it is regarded as a form of child abuse under UK law, especially if the victim is under the age of 16 (as 16 is the legal age of consent for marriage in the UK)
  • There are forced marriage protection orders including the following:
    • Section 1 of the forced marriage (civil protection) Act 2007 allowed courts to make Forced marriage protection orders (FMPO) to prevent forced marriages from occurring and to protect those who have already been forced into marriage
    • The order can include prohibitions, restrictions or requirements to protect a victim from a spouse, family member or anyone involved.
    • Involvement includes, but is not limited to, aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, encouraging or assisting another person to force or attempt to force a person to marry.
    • FMPO’s can last for a specified time or, if the court so desires, the FMPO may be set for an indefinite period, i.e. until varied or discharged.
    • The order can relate to conduct either within or outside of England and Wales.

How can i help

There are a number of ways that you can help to prevent or report Gender Based Violence:

  1. Report it. If you or someone else you know is a victim or at risk of GBV, you need to report it immediately to a trusted adult – this could be your parent, your teacher, your GP, social worker or police. If you wish to remain anonymous, a list of helplines and organisations are given below which you can contact to seek advice or make anonymous reports.

  2. Speak out. An important step in the fight against gender based violence, is simply raising awareness of GBV amongst your friends and the community. You can do this by sharing this quiz on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter and adding your voice to the conversation using the hashtags #EndFGM and #TrainToProtect.

  3. Take action. Turn your voice into actions, see if there are any volunteering opportunities in your local area by clicking here. 

Join the Youth for Change global movement! Youth for Change is an entirely youth-led network of activists, so we rely on the voices of young people to spread our message and help put an end to gender based violence. Click here to find out how you can support our campaigns.

Our chance to tackle FGM in the UK

There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in England and Wales, with a further 60,000 girls at risk.

These figures highlight the magnitude to which these harmful acts are being carried out, but what they don’t show is the suffering and realities experienced by vulnerable girls and women across the country.

There has been some progress in recent years to try to curb the practise of FGM; the Serious Crimes Act 2015 toughened sentences for those responsible and the introduction of the FGM unit in 2014 has helped to improve the local response to tackling FGM. Yet, even with this progress, the power of education continues to be ignored, and thus has become a significant gap in the prevention of FGM. 

Safeguarding children through education

From research conducted by Youth for Change in 2017, 90% of young people surveyed said that learning about FGM as part of Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) would help to protect and empower them and their peers. This response shows just how important young people regard the need to be informed, empowered and educated of their rights.

Our Train to Protect campaign has aimed to make schools in the UK a safer place to report FGM and child marriage. Teachers and schools play a crucial role in young people's lives, and education is a powerful way to make change. By ensuring school staff and students are aware of these issues, cases can be prevented from happening and young people can at risk can be given the right support.

To achieve this goal we have been working to change education policy and provide training for schools. Last year we held sessions on FGM and child and early forced marriage (CEFM) prevention for teachers and students. We also held the first ever National Schools Conference on combating FGM and child marriage, attended by over 100 teachers.

RSE consultations – our chance to get it right

Now more than ever we have an exciting and unique opportunity to tackle these issues in the UK. As of 2019, Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) will be compulsory in every school.

Education on FGM and CEFM through RSE could play a vital role in helping to end these harmful practices. It will properly prepare young people, educate people about the issues, as well as how to report or how victims can seek support. Hence, this will enable young people to protect both themselves and others against gender-based violence.

This is an opportunity we cannot miss! Consultations about the new RSE curriculum are now open 

This provides the chance to make sure that young people are educated about FGM, CEFM and other forms of gender-based violence. The current RSE guidelines were created in 2000, it is therefore incredibly important that you engage in this consultation to ensure that the curriculum reflects and prepares for the world young people live in today.

The consultation closes on 12 February 2018, and on International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, it won’t take long to engage in it, and include FGM and CEFM in your suggestions. So use this chance to have your say to #EndFGM.

Maisha and Farjana mentioned in Danish PM New Years' Address

On January 1st 2018, the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, opened his new years speech by talking about his visit with Youth For Change Bangladesh members Maisha and Farjana. The girls were invited to meet the Prime Minister in October 2017 as part of International Day of the Girl and clearly left a positive impact! 

It's a great achievement for the girls' work in advocating for girls rights and ending child marriage to be recognised on such a large scale and shows the great impact Youth For Change and young people are making in influencing global leaders to instigate change. What a great way to start 2018. Well done girls! 

You find the transcript of the Danish PMs speech here: http://www.stm.dk/_p_14611.html


#IVD2017: Youth For Change Bangladesh win first prize at the Yothopia.Bangla Youth Video contest 2017!

#IVD2017: Youth For Change Bangladesh win first prize at the Yothopia.Bangla Youth Video contest 2017!

This November Youth For Change Bangladesh created two videos, which were submitted to a competition hosted by Youthopia.bangla and UNV Bangladesh. We are thrilled to announce that both videos have made it through to the final!

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