Writing for Rights: An interview with Lorna Andisi, FGM Writer and Blogger

Lorna is a freelance writer, blogger, feminist, human rights defender and mother as well as a member and media communications volunteer with the Kenya Youth Anti-FGM Network - A Kenyan youth movement against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Lorna also contributes at Youth For Change UK and Girls Globe blog sites and is a member of the Africa UNiTE Kenya Chapter- A National Anti-GBV Consortium.

Her blog 'Lornas Musings' shares interesting topics and inspirational issues close to her heart. Mostly covering gender based violence topics with a focus on FGM.

Can you tell us why you decided to create your blog; 'Lorna Musings'?

My community (Luhya) does not practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I came to hear about FGM much later in life, when I was out of college; and even when I heard about it, I still did not pay much attention. Then one day, two years ago, I happened to be among the journalists that were called on to a workshop in Nairobi by The Guardian Media UK team. The team was launching an extensive media campaign to create awareness about FGM and use media to end FGM. They too had identified a number of activists across FGM practicing communities in Kenya whom they also trained on use of social and mainstream media to amplify their work. During the themed #EndFGMAcademy, I interacted with a number of activists some of whom were FGM survivors. They openly shared their stories and experiences. Some stories were quite disheartening! I also watched videos of how FGM is procured and they were quite horrific. I wondered how many people out there were as naive and unaware of the horrific practice - as I once was. I decided I must do something. I must be part of this issue even if it does not directly affect me. I must work with these great people! On the last day of the academy, I created my blog. Primarily to create awareness on the issue and to amplify the good work done by the various activists working to end the practice. In fact, the blog was born from the academy!

Why is it important to write about these issues?

Every day, every hour, every minute, every second a girl somewhere in this world is at risk of undergoing FGM. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 200 Million girls, (Yes 200M!) and women alive today have undergone FGM. A whopping 3 Million are at risk of undergoing FGM every year! The majority of these girls undergo the cut before fifteen and in many cases are married off, meaning most of them drop out of school. I feel a girl is eventually robbed off her future in the name of culture! I feel a girl’s right to health and education are violated. I love the African culture and I completely respect it. However, I have a problem with the facets of the culture that tend violate children and women's rights. I cannot just sit back and watch my sister, my daughter or my mother suffer and do nothing about it! I write to get everyone involved in this issue because FGM should be everybody's business, trust me!

What are your favorite blogs to write about and why?

I love to write about success stories. Positive stories that give hope, stories that inspire. When I visit various FGM practicing communities around my country, I probably get carried away by such stories - they give me hope that one day, this practice will end.

A lot of people are silent about gender based violence - do you have any thoughts on why?

GBV and especially FGM is a hushed subject. In Africa, Kenya to be precise, we just do not talk about the Vagina publicly (Oops I said it!). It is a taboo subject. Many people therefore avoid discussing and getting involved in 'private' matters. FGM is a cultural issue; many people would not want to be seen publicly defying their culture! There is another lot that also feel if an issue does not affect them then "why bother?"

What has been your public’s response to your writing? Are people supportive or is there any backlash?

The topics and kind of stories I cover are not controversial per se. Though I occasionally get private messages from people who request me to stay away from a culture I know nothing about, (huh!) Nevertheless, I get quite encouraging feedback from my audience! I appreciate when a section of my audience applaud me on creating awareness and taking a stand to use my writing skills to communicate a great message. Over time, I have reached a large number of subscribers who are fond of and supportive my work. I also guest blog on other sites such as Girls Globe and Youth For Change UK. I recently stumbled on a site that rated me no #7 authority on issues FGM! (laughs) How flattering is that?!

What are the hopes and future of your blog and what it might achieve?

Hmm.. first I need to upgrade my site from a beginner Wordpress format to a more reader friendly and impressive format - to be done soon! I also want to invite other bloggers out there to guest blog with me. I will also broaden the topics that I cover to a wider spectrum and comprehensive issues of gender based violence. A book could be on the way!