Forward's animated film about female genital mutilation

A short animated film produced by Animage films contrasts the innocence of childhood with the brutality of this practice, which the charity estimates has affected 100,000 women in the UK

A scene from Needlecraft
A scene from Needlecraft

What is it?

The London-based African women’s charity has released a short animated film to address the issue of female genital mutilation in the UK. Called Needlecraft, it is produced by Animage Films and contrasts the beauty of Oscar winner Daniel Greaves’s animation with the harmful practice of FGM, which the charity says has affected more than 130 million girls and women throughout the world. 

The film tells the simple story of a doll called Maria who loves singing and dancing and is then grabbed from her perfect life and mutilated by someone with a knife.

The film is aimed at the general public and professionals, and the charity hopes it will raise further awareness and prompt action to protect girls from FGM and end the practice. It also hopes to raise funds to continue its work. The film was funded by Comic Relief and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

Where is it being promoted?

Needlecraft has been posted on Forward’s website, and on the video-sharing websites Vimeo and YouTube. It is being promoted on the charity’s social media pages.

Why now?

The film has been launched now because girls are more at risk of FGM in the summer – this is when they are often taken to their parents’ countries of origin, potentially to become victims of FGM.

It is estimated that more than 100,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM in the UK, and another 60,000 girls are at risk. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and the law was revised in 2015. But data from the Department of Health shows that more than 14,000 incidents of FGM were identified in UK hospitals between September 2014 and March 2015.

Anything else?

Needlecraft is the first of three animated films on the subject of FGM to be released by Forward and Animage Films. A version of Needlecraft that is suitable for primary schoolchildren, called My Body, My Rules, will be released in October and a different film called The Story of Ghati and Rhobi, made for distribution in Tanzania and the rest of Africa, will be launched later in the year.

What the charity says

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of Forward, says: "The aim of Needlecraft is to offer a more visual way to invoke passion and action. As we approach the summer season, when girls will be at more risk, this is a timely opportunity to alert people to the fact that FGM is still a hidden form of abuse.

"We recognise that this animation is hard-hitting and might engender strong emotions in some people. We did not choose this direction lightly and feel that the use of the animation and the doll still ensures the dignity of women and girls affected by FGM is upheld."

Third Sector verdict

This film juxtaposes the childlike innocence of dolls, colourful needlework pictures and happy music with the brutality of assaulting a girl with a knife. In just four minutes, it portrays the severity and complexity of FGM and brilliantly conveys that this horrendous practice is wrecking young girls’ lives. It cleverly achieves this without resorting to graphic images. The film poses the simple question: "A girl is perfect – why cut her?"

It deserves to be shared widely so that it can start discussions on a topic that might not otherwise be talked about.

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