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Launching ‘Tree of Life’ for FGM Survivors

UNFPA-UNICEF‘s theme for this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, is: ‘Investing in survivor-led movements‘.  #FrontlineEndingFGM is doing exactly that by launching an innovative trauma counselling programme, The Tree of Life (ToL).

ToL is a survivor-led methodology for victims of FGM, building resilience and supporting social action for survivors. It uses the creative metaphor of a tree to build stories of strength; uniting women and girls who have survived violence by fostering mutual support, amplifying their voices and building community resilience

This unique localised model, used to treat women traumatised by everything from war in Afghanistan to sexual violence in the Congo is being specially adapted by local women’s rights organisations in Africa for victims of female genital mutilation. 

Above: Tree of Life diagrams, where the survivor can document their life, rooted in narrative therapy. It uses the creative metaphor of a tree to build stories of strength and hope.

ToL has been used in multiple countries across the globe including post-conflict environments, empowering women to act together and initiate change. Tree of Life programmes have previously taken place with parents and children of Afghani refugees, and victims of torture in Gukurahundi in Matebeleland, Zimbabwe.

 Above: A ToL workshop in London with staff working with refugee communities.

Supported in the field by local activists, sociologists and clinical Psychologist and Systemic Psychotherapist Gillian Hughes, the model is unique in that it is women survivors who deliver the training in their communities. #FrontlineEndingFGM is launching the Tree Of Life trauma treatment model next week to support International Zero Tolerance Day for FGM on February 6th and its focus on survivor-led FGM organisations.

Above: Sadia Hussain of Brighter Society Initiative Kenya, leading survivor-led talks in Nairobi, Kenya, November 2023. 

We are really excited by this model,” said #FrontlineEndingFGM Founder Ifrah Ahmed, who is the Executive of the Ifrah Foundation in Somalia and a survivor of female genital mutilation.   

“Talking with women about what they have been through is the first thing we have to do when we go into a new community in Somalia; sometimes we cook together, and sometimes we cry together – but this Tree of Life gives us a way to do it- so we can reach thousands of women.”  

Audrey Briggs

Audrey is responsible for identifying, engaging and closing foundation, HNI and corporate funding opportunities at GMC. She also supports communications and the work of other GMC staffers. LinkedIn Profile: