September 8, 2022
Impact Story: Re-strategizing our work
This impact story is part of a 5-part series of stories from the 2022 Shelter City Impact Study by DBMresearch (Danielle de Winter). This story belongs to a human rights defender who is fighting against female genital mutilation and early marriage in their community. Prior to Shelter City, they felt that all tasks and duties of their organization fell solely upon their shoulders.
“I would describe myself as a mother and a fierce anti-female genital mutilation and early marriage activist. I come from a pastoralist community that still aggressively enforces cultural practices that harm women and girls. I have experienced this first hand. Knowing what impact it has on a person, I have vowed to fight these harmful practices and safeguard the rights of other women.
But of course, this has come at a cost. When I travel to rescue circumcised girls, I face serious problems with the community. They see me and my organization as the enemy because we are against their practices. I have often faced harassment and physical threats of the community when rescuing these young girls. But the work never stops – we find a new case each time, that requires us to step up and act, despite the aggression.
“My stay at Shelter City in the Netherlands changed how I approach my human rights work.”
When I started this work together with the other women, it started out of an impulse – we just did it because we felt we had to. It slowly grew into an organization but still I felt a personal responsibility of responding to every single case. While I had the opportunity of leading this group of women, in the end of the day I personally was still rushing to the villages each time a case was called in. It’s important to realize that these communities are very remote – we don’t have any vehicles that can take us to the location of the girls. Sometimes, I had to rent a motorbike, but perhaps there is no fuel, and then I needed to trek for a whole day, from 6 to 6, to the village. It became very intense for me.
My stay at Shelter City in the Netherlands changed how I approach my human rights work. Rather than thinking I have to do everything myself, the 3-month relocation showed me that I can build on my team more and delegate responsibilities. I have learned how to better coordinate the work, which allows us to now reach 12 villages across three different wards. For each location, we now have a different woman taking responsibility. I no longer have to do all the work by myself; travelling to every village to rescue girls. This has relieved a lot of pressure for me personally, and it has made our work much more effective.
“I no longer have to do all the work by myself; travelling to every village to rescue girls. This has relieved a lot of pressure for me personally, and it has made our work much more effective.”
This story is reflective of many other hard-working human rights defenders. Following this defender’s experience at Shelter City, they were able to learn how to delegate work among their team members in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of their most essential purpose, supporting young girls, and of upmost importance, ensuring their own wellbeing.