Ghanaian anti-FGM pioneer Efua Dorkenoo honoured in Britain

One of the foremothers and pioneers of women’s rights activism has been recognized in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB) and her mention is worth celebrating.

Efua Dorkenoo was a Ghanaian-British activist against female genital mutilation (FGM) who pioneered the global movement to end the practice. She was born on 6 September 1949 and moved to London at the age of 19. She studied nursing, eventually earning a master’s degree at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a research fellowship at City University London.

She worked as a staff nurse at various hospitals and while training as a midwife, she became aware of the impact of FGM on women’s lives. This inspired her to begin her travels and advocacy across Africa, which sparked a global movement against the practice. She died on 18 October 2014.

In the latest update of the Oxford DNB, Dorkenoo is highlighted and her work praised. This is a synopsis of her mention:

Efua Dorkenoo (1949-2014) first encountered the devastating physical and psychological consequences of female genital mutilation while training as a midwife in Sheffield. From that moment she made it her mission to research and campaign tirelessly against the practice, at first in the UK, and then globally through the World Health Organization. Insisting that it be known as female genital mutilation (not ‘cutting’ or ‘circumcision’), she succeeded in debunking many of the myths surrounding the practice, and in casting it as a human rights, and not just a health, issue. Known to friends and colleagues as ‘Mama Efua’, she was widely acknowledged as the mother of the movement to end FGM, and just eight days before she died saw the launch of a new international umbrella organization of campaign groups, Girl Generation: Together to End FGM, which she brought together, and of which she was the first programme director.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century.

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