‘I want that little girl who was sitting in that room in her house thinking she’s alone in this world when it comes to FGM, I want her to know that she’s not alone, I want her to know that women like me are out there fighting for her.’
Hoda Ali is that woman fighting for an end to FGM. A prominent campaigner and survivor of FGM, Hoda debunks some of the myths that surround the issue and describes how education is the key to ending FGM for good.
You are a survivor of Type 3 FGM, what lasting impact did it have on you?
At age 7 I was cut in Somalia. By age 11 I experienced my first of many acute hospitalisations due to complications from FGM.
Medical complications from FGM continued to impact on my life: infections, adhesions, subfertility, IVF, miscarriage and finally the medical advice that risks to internal organs was too great, age 31 I was told IVF could no longer be pursued and I will never be able to have my own child. Age 37 I was told I’m going through premature menopause.
Have you ever spoken to your mother about FGM and the reasons behind taking you & your sister to be cut? How does she feel about it now?
My mum was a survivor, my grandmother was a survivor, and all the women before me in my family were survivors. I have never doubted my mum’s love for me, she wanted the best for her daughter, society expected her to cut us, and the pressure from the community was too overwhelming so mothers have no choice but to cut their daughters.
Education is the key to end FGM, my mother witnessed my medical problems and from that moment she was against FGM which is why we are the last to be cut in our family.
Over the last three years, we’ve seen a big awareness drive in the UK & globally around eradicating FGM. Just this last month, Liberia has imposed a one-year ban on FGM – being so close to the cause, do you feel the last few years have brought big change?
Yes, and one of the reasons are because survivors have started to speak out and we set up our own campaign here in the UK and around the world. We talk and show people it has nothing to do with our religion or culture, we speak about our experiences, we realised no one can speak for us and what we are going through other than us.
FGM is child abuse and we need to end it. Every time I had a medical appointment I always found myself educating the health professional who was looking after me, I used to feel sad when I think about some of the women and girls who might not speak English, living with lifelong physical problems and psychological trauma how are they going to explain? We have had the FGM act since 1985 but no one used it, so we started to demand a change.
The work on ending FGM also involves educating the communities. We can eradicate FGM if we all work together.
What are some of the myths people still believe about FGM?
First, we have to understand FGM is to control a woman’s sexuality and keep her virginity till marriage, period! But these are some of the myths; cultural identity, hygiene, mistaken belief that it is a religious obligation. As a result of social pressures girls may want to undergo FGM despite the lack of reference to it in religious scriptures.
What do you think the biggest challenge is to ending FGM?
We have to call FGM what it actually is, child abuse, to END FGM we have to have an honest conversation. We need to educate women about their human rights, about their bodies, woman have the right to say NO!
We need to call FGM what it is – the worst form of violence against girls and women – rather than let it hide under a cultural poster. It is child abuse, and we need it named as such because language is the most powerful and influential way to fight against.
Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re doing in schools to educate about FGM?
I believe early education is very important therefore educating pupils starting from primary schools is vital. FGM is normally carried out on young girls from infancy to 15 years of age.
Perivale Primary School in Ealing is one of the first schools in the country to set up an Outreach Programme. In partnership with the Ealing Healthy Schools Team and funding from The John Lyon Charity we will be working with 15 primary schools in the borough; training and equipping them to educate their school community about FGM and then go on to support other neighbouring schools to do the same. Our aim is to ensure; that the whole community of Ealing understands FGM, accepts it as abuse, know the legal implications and where to go for help and support.
We will do this through listening to the local community and parents to help understand the issues and barriers that exist locally to tackle FGM, raising awareness amongst staff and pupils about FGM and its effects, constructing a suite of lessons plans and resources to use in school to help pupils learn how to stay safe.
Do you think older generations are seeing FGM for what it is, or is it still very much considered the right thing to do?
It is mixed, a lot of the older generation are really seeing FGM for what it is because FGM was not something which was talked about before. It was always a secret i.e. we never shared the medical problems, we never shared the psychological problems, we never shared all the pain that we go through as survivors.
No one talked about it, so basically no one knew the effect that FGM had on people, they still thought it was something that was good.
My family in London wouldn’t do it, me and my sister are the last ones to be cut. My niece will never ever know what FGM is but if we didn’t speak out they would still be victims themselves.
Education is the key I really believe that religiously for me, things are changing but there are still older people who are living in rural areas who we can’t get through to.
What is needed to help bring an end to FGM?
How are we going to end FGM in our generation? Get men to work with us because at the end of the day, FGM is to control a woman’s sexuality so if the men come on board with us, if men said I don’t want my woman to be cut, trust me, all these older generations who are for FGM will stop because they are doing it to please the future men, future husbands for any of us, any of these girls. So basically, the man is the answer to ending FGM because it happens for them. So, if they say I don’t want my woman to be cut, it will stop.
We have to speak up for those 200 million women and girls worldwide who are survivors of FGM. There are some of them who have no voice, so this is where I and the other campaigners become the voice for them.
I want that little girl who was sitting in that room in her house thinking she’s alone in this world when it comes to FGM. I want her to know that she’s not alone, I want her to know that women like me are out there fighting for her.
Hoda Ali, Mabel Evans and Leyla Hussein set up The Vavenger’s a group campaigning to End FGM and they raise money for FGM initiatives. We asked Mabel Evans of The Vavenger’s a couple of questions on the work they do to raise awareness of FGM and the progress that is being made to end it.
Can you tell us a bit about the work The Vavenger’s is doing to fill the funding cut gaps to FGM support services?
The Vavengers put on live music and poetry events, in a very laid-back environment in the future we hope to put on exhibitions and plays too. The idea is to make FGM mainstream and discussed whilst people can also come and listen to really amazing artists. All the money raised at the events goes directly to the charity we are fundraising for, not a cent goes anywhere else but to the cause.
I think it’s important to get young people today discussing FGM and woman’s rights, I think in the west a lot of people disassociate to what is happening to our sisters across the globe. FGM isn’t something that is irrelevant to us, it is a human rights issue that needs to be brought into our understanding of the reality for many women and girls. The Vavenger’s main goal is to raise money for the clinics and organisations that are helping these survivors; the clinics that are not getting enough funding to offer help to those who desperately need it.
Do you feel from your experience of campaigning to end FGM that we are well on our way to achieving the target that the UN Sustainable Development Agenda set to put an end to FGM by 2030?
To put an end to FGM by 2030? FGM isn’t something that you can just eradicate like a virus, unfortunately its engrained into a lot of peoples understanding regarding the roles of women. It’s a generational thing, The Vavengers often use the tagline ‘Last generation’ this is because if you are stopping one mother cutting her daughter you are saving thousands of girls that may have been cut in that family line.
To say it will end by 2030 is a lovely thought but most importantly we need to be the generation now that says enough is enough meaning that in 40 years when the girls who are children now become mothers they do not cut their daughters genitalia. Then I believe FGM will finally be a horror story of the past. To answer your question, yes, I do believe we are on the way to eradicating the practice, but by 2030?
A lot more commitment and awareness need to be bought in by the government in order to make that a reality, but I do think it’s best to stay hopeful. Ultimately as with most campaigns for the rights of women and girls I don’t think FGM is being prioritised enough in mainstream politics and media.
For more information or support on FGM:
Every day, three or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands around the world.
Every week, two women are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales.
Over half the killings of women in America are related to intimate partner violence.
Yet despite these shocking statistics, domestic violence remains a global issue that does not receive the attention and action needed to bring about real change. While many brands passionately promote a variety of important, purpose-driven causes, few have taken the bold step of getting behind this equally important issue.
One major brand that has had women at the heart of its purpose since conception, is Avon. A globally-recognised brand with over 6 million women representatives, their products are well known, but perhaps less so are their efforts in fighting domestic violence. Through the Avon Foundation for Women (founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women and their families), domestic violence awareness and prevention has long been a foundation of their purpose. Their Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program, which launched in 2004, has contributed nearly $60 million globally and marks a major milestone in the progress of businesses joining the fight to end domestic violence.
More than just a general awareness campaign condemning the damage of domestic violence, Speak Out aspires to a greater ambition: turn a historically taboo subject into a pressing concern that is collectively at the forefront of our minds. And they are starting with those who are directly able to help make an impact where it matters most. Judges, prosecutors, police officers, agencies and organisations who deal directly with domestic violence victims are being brought together to improve the quality of victim protection efforts and criminal justice in meaningful ways. To date, this incredible program has educated 29 million on domestic violence, and served over 11 million women.
The Avon Foundation continues to inspire our team and we hope they will inspire other brands to get behind this most vital cause with the same passion and ambition they are already committing to solving the many social and environmental issue confronting us today. We all have a role to play in creating a safer future for everyone.
This week marks 100 years since women’s suffrage, but also International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, a horrific practice that unfortunately is still widespread today.
This isn’t a practice that’s affecting a small section of women either. Worldwide, at least 200 million women and girls have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. While FGM is most frequently practiced across Africa and regions of the Middle East, it is very much a local problem too. In England and Wales alone, over 137,000 women and girls are living with the permanent-damage that is FGM, and the number continues to grow with a case of FGM being discovered or treated at medical appointment in England every single hour.
Determined to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation ‘within a generation’, Plan International UK tasked us with creating a provocative campaign that would raise awareness and inspire a deeper, more meaningful conversation with policy-makers and the public alike.
The challenge was: how do you make a powerful statement that has real impact, without offending or alienating survivors of the practice who may still be suffering?
Being such a sensitive subject with many of our potential audience possibly being survivors themselves, it was just as important that our campaign be respectful and sensitive, yet also a powerful statement that would inspire real change.
Our creative was inspired by ‘cutting season’, an ugly term for an ugly practice in which girls are flown abroad, in a trip often disguised as a holiday, to then undergo FGM in countries where it is not yet illegal. We responded to this cruel insight with simplistic symbolism: a single red rose cut by a pair of cold, metal scissors. The association of a rose and a woman’s fertility and innocence, created a confronting statement and a strong, emotional reaction to a simple action for all those who saw it online or through the various media platforms who shared our campaign.
Featured heavily in the likes of Sky News, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and more, so strong was the reaction that #FGMrose was used by the Prime Minister (David Cameron, at that time) during his address to the DFID and Unicef event, Girl Summit.
We are proud that #FGMrose helped build awareness and a meaningful conversation around the need to eradicate the practice but we’re sharing the campaign here as a reminder that we still have a long way to go, both at home and broad, if we are to create a safer future for women and girls everywhere.
Purpose-driven conversations have become popular amongst brands hoping to appeal to a growing global audience of conscious consumers. Aviva have been quietly building an inclusive work culture that celebrates difference not only in the workforce but the community too. Now in their tenth year, what began in York, England back in 2007 has now grown across several countries Aviva operate in.
As important as it is authentic, we’ve been inspired by Aviva’s embrace and celebration of team members who in many other organisations still feel inclined to hide a very important part of who they are. While a lot of brands are promoting equality and recognition of some of the major milestones that have been achieved in the advancement of LGBT+ rights in recent years, there is something particularly admirable in a company who are committed to creating change from the inside out through an inclusive culture that still does not exist in our wider work culture.
Take a look at this emotive piece of content from Aviva pride that really communicates the personal impact created through this terrific and authentic work culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOIALNGkDhc&t=333s
From giving away 20,000 pairs of rainbow laces to customers and staff, to their ‘Be out as an Ally’ initiative that encourages colleagues to show their support (now exceeding 5000 allies), connecting their team and celebrating their LGBT family has been at the heart of Aviva Pride.
With Aviva being the only insurer in the top 100 of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index (the UK’s leading benchmark for LGBT inclusive employers) for the last ten years, there is still a long way to go. Yet stories like these will hopefully be the drop that creates a ripple worldwide and a more inclusive workplace for all.
Recent YouGov research among those 50+ shows that 79% don’t think that media portrays them accurately, whether it be on television, radio or online.
“You can’t become what you don’t see!” So says Alex Rotas, a woman on a mission to fight ageism and ageist attitudes with her inspiring work photographing athletes in their 60s, 70s, right up to their 80s and 90s.
Through her work, Alex wants to remind us that becoming older doesn’t have to equate to frailty and ill-health (though the media may lead you to believe otherwise) – there are plenty of ‘lifey’ older people around who lead vibrant, joyful and active lives & hopes that her inspiring photography will force us to rethink our attitudes to ageing.
We spoke to Alex about her experiences and some of the inspiring people she’s met along the way. Read our interview below.
Have you always felt positive about old age?
No! I grew up in an era when different ages were very much divided – much more divided than I think they are now.
When I was 19 and at university, some ‘mature students’ came. I think they were about 30. I thought they were ancient.
Was there ever any fear or concern on seeing parents or relatives age over the years? If so, when was the turning point?
I come from a family on both sides that seems to be blessed with relatively healthy longevity so the concerns I had about ageing didn’t come from there. My concerns came from the kinds of images I saw and stories I read in the media – so many scare stories (and pictures) of decrepit and passive frailty amongst the so-called ‘elderly’. (You only have to look at the street sign ‘Elderly people crossing’ to get the picture.) The overall image was one where the life-force seemed to have been knocked out. Yet I knew that there was another story and that there were plenty of ‘lifey’ (I love that word, if it’s a word!) older people around, still leading vibrant, joyful and active lives. And that they didn’t always fit into the cosy ‘granny and grandpa’ stereotype either. But where were they in our popular culture? Nowhere, as far as I could see.
What prompted you to start photographing older people in this way?
I used to work as an academic in the field of visual culture and, as a sporty person, I was interested in images from the world of sport. After I turned 60 I did a Google search on ‘older athletes’ one day and nothing came up. I was astonished! I knew there were plenty of us out there, still playing and competing in the sport we loved through our 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. But it seemed that the moment that word ‘old’ went into a search engine, the same care-home type images came up, over and over. Sport just didn’t seem to figure. So I thought, wow, here’s a gap that needs filling.
I passionately believe that “you can’t become what you don’t see”! That belief really underpins all my work. I like to feel I’m a small part of a bigger story: there are lots of us now who are angry about the way that older people are stereotyped and portrayed and who are fighting ageism and ageist attitudes, and trying to present another story. I’m one of many – and I love that! It’s great to feel part of a movement.
Have you come across any people, organizations or groups that are championing older people and/or making strides in positively changing perceptions?
There are lots of people and groups challenging these perceptions – There’s a wonderful campaign on Twitter called #NoMoreWrinklyHands that draws attention to the demeaning way older people are often represented by images of old hands, for example. There are products that challenge the anti-ageing movement (as though such a thing were possible!) such as White Hot Hair https://www.whitehothair.co.uk/about-us/ which makes hair products that explicitly embrace and enhance grey and white hair rather than trying to conceal or dye it. There are campaigners like Ashely Applewhite in the US, and her wonderfully named campaign This Chair Rocks https://thischairrocks.com, fighting daily against ageism. We are very definitely a movement, not lone voices!
Why do you think there is such negativity around ageing?
I think fear is a great driver in keeping negativity around ageing alive and well. Fear is always news: make people frightened and they’ll want to know more. It’s good copy. Fear also creates difference; it makes an Us and Them. And that’s a great marketing tool. If ‘we’ don’t want to be like ‘them’ then look at all the products that can be created to supposedly stop this happening. For me, it’s all about fighting this fear and making getting older seem like an exciting time of opportunity rather than something to be terrified about. In my case, I’ve never felt happier – or more free.
Has being exposed to much older people doing incredible things changed your approach to or outlook on life?
I always thought of myself as already having a positive approach to the ageing trajectory. But the more people I photograph who are excelling in their chosen sport through, let’s say, their 80s and 90s, the more I can feel my own perceptions continuing to evolve. I am totally in awe of the sportsmen and women who train rigorously, throughout the year, in their 80s and 90s. They are all so knowledgeable too – they know when to stop, when to take rest days, they manage their diets and for the overwhelming most part they treat their passion as just part of their lives, not as the be all and end all of everything. However, these people are not much older than me: I turn 70 myself next year. They have given me optimism yes, but most of all they have given me joy: I have become friends with many of them. So my life has become fuller and richer on that level too. I feel very grateful.
Can you tell us about a couple of your favourite photos that you’ve taken in the last few years of an older person? And the story behind it?
Here are a couple of my favourite photos (though I actually have loads of favourites, so it was a hard choice picking two!)
This is Rosa Pederson, winning the women’s long jump competition at The European Masters Athletics Championships in Aarhus in August 2017. Rosa is 87 and she’s the current world champion in her age group and also world record holder, having cleared 2.93m. I really enjoy looking at her in this photo. You can see the force with which she’s landed by the flurry of sand in the air. But what I really love about Rosa is that every time she jumps, she throws herself into the air and lets herself fall as she lands. Now we’re used to worrying about older people falling. But Rosa does it every time. Seeing her, and others like her, has really made me feel less fearful of breaking a bone if I should fall. We’re tougher than we think! I also love it that she’s quite a round person, and yet she still flies through the air and has a wonderful lightness to her. She is truly a world-class elite athlete. I enjoy seeing the wrinkles on her arms – we all have those as we get older and we should celebrate them, just as we should celebrate the wrinkles on our face. Finally, you can just see her cheeky little tattoo peeking out from under her vest: she’s a great character, full of life and full of joy.
I also love this picture of two female athletes in their late 60s comparing their biceps. Isn’t that the sort of thing we all used to do when we were kids? I love it how these two ‘older women’ are getting such a kick out of checking out theirs! I caught this moment almost by accident. I was in Izmir, Turkey, photographing what was then called the European Veterans Athletics Championships in August 2014 and it was the end of a long day. I’d left my camera bag in the middle of the stadium in some shade where a women’s throwing event was taking place. I walked over to pick it up to go back to my hotel and just as the event finished. These two women, one Danish, the other German, were comparing their muscle-power, roaring with laughter as they did so. I quickly grabbed the shot. For me this photo sums up the athleticism, physical strength, camaraderie and joy of these events that I am lucky enough to photograph.
You’re based in the UK for the most part, when travelling around the globe to photograph international events, have you noticed a difference in how older people are viewed, treated or addressed in other cultures?
There are clearly national cultural differences to the way that ageing is addressed in different places. When you see this acted out, it makes you realise how ageing truly is a complex cultural phenomenon rather than a straightforward physical one. I spend a lot of time in Greece as I have family there and I am very aware, when I go out for a run myself, that this is something ‘unusual’ for a woman of my age to do. People make comments in the street – something that doesn’t happen in northern European countries in my experience. These cultural differences are important because they can affect how we are treated medically: if we are in a culture that regards people over a certain age as inevitably ‘in decline’, the kind of healthcare we receive can be different to what you might receive in a culture that views ageing as a healthy continuation of the life-course. I’ve experienced this difference myself.
What do you think are the key factors that impact how people age? (e.g. how is it that some people stay vibrant & youthful until their 90s while others may seem quick elderly in their 60s). Do you think social norms are drivers for how we age in society? (i.e. at a certain age you are expected to…)
Most of the attributes that people who age vibrantly have in common seem, from what I have observed, to be do with an attitude towards life rather more than any physical or genetic predisposition. I also think these personal attributes tend to override the prevalent social norms around ageing that might restrict other, less positive individuals. I’ve seen athletes who compete after a string of horrible physical illnesses: they just don’t let the strokes/heart issues/joint replacements/cancers hold them back or define them. They are “bloody-minded”, as one 81 year old stroke survivor told me. They don’t give up. They are goal-orientated and focused, of course, but also in the main down to earth (rather than neurotic), friendly, open and interested in the world and other people in it. In short, they are overwhelmingly positive in their attitudes in general. Meeting such people, as I have, and photographing them is an immense privilege and joy.
Who are you and what’s your story?
I’m Ben and I’m a Video Editor. I studied Film Production at university, and then shortly afterwards moved to London to work full time as an Editor. I’ve edited and created motion graphics for a range of big
clients and I can honestly say I love what I do! Aside from my work I like to travel, play tennis and play as many video games as I can.
What attracted you to the role at Marmalade?
I really like the hard-hitting content that Marmalade produces and I think I will enjoy working on those types of projects. I think the role is going to present me with some new challenges in
regards to film styles and genres, and I’m looking forward to being more involved in the creative process and sharing my ideas with the team.
Who would be your dream client/project?
One day I’d love to work on an Attenborough documentary. Or a documentary about prisons. Or games. Or I’d like to edit something that would allow me to travel the world. I’m open to ideas!
Special Skill: I’m pretty good at Ping Pong. And I can quote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (nearly) word for word.
Movie/TV series of the month: That would probably have to be the return of Black Mirror. Although most of the stuff Netflix is producing at the moment is equally awesome (i.e. Stranger Things, Making a Murderer). But I do love how each episode of Black Mirror is a completely different concept with a different cast, and each one somehow manages to entertain as much as it scares me about the future of humanity!
Doodle a dream:
Today is International Day of the Girl Child. Created by the United Nations, it is a day to raise awareness of the challenges that millions of girls face every day and support girls’ progress all around the world. From education to child marriage, this day harnesses the dreams and potential of young girls’ that are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and a lack of equal opportunities.
Statistics compiled by Unicef showed that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual cutting, with a further estimation of 3 million girls at risk of undergoing FGM every year.
In England & Wales, there are an estimated 137,000 women and girls that have undergone FGM, the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. This cruel procedure is endured by girls between the ages of 0 – 18 yrs.
The consequences of FGM are endless; severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urinary infection, septicaemia… and they aren’t just physical. From the day they are cut, psychological effects can consume them for the rest of their lives.
We spoke to author, speaker & FGM campaigner Hibo Wardere, a victim of Type 3 FGM at just 6 years old in her native country of Somalia. Here, 98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49 have been cut.
Now living in London, Hibo strives to educate children in schools about FGM and the traumatising effects it can have throughout teenage and adult life, as well as lobby for global change and the eradication of FGM. We spoke to her about her book, her mission and what needs to be done to stop this inhumane procedure for good.
Marmalade: Your book, ‘Cut’, was published in April this year. What inspired you to write it?
Hibo Wardere: I was contacted by a lady from a publishing company to write a book about FGM. At first, I thought – why me? There were people more famous than me and their stories were more well-known, but she told me that my story was compelling and raw, which captured her.
From the beginning to the very end, the content was detailed – no blocking, no hiding any information – we made a pact that we would cover every detail. It was emotionally draining, mentally challenging and exhausting.
M: What was the importance of writing the book for you?
HW: The book gives hope… there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. There are millions of women out there who have suffered and are still suffering. There are many, many women with similar stories to mine who think there is no reason to discuss FGM.
It was a chance to reach out to these women who might, after reading the book, look for help. It is also an educational tool to spread the message that future generations should eradicate this practice.
M: What is your personal mission?
HW: To get the subject of FGM in the curriculum and continue spreading the message. FGM is child abuse and is not normal. I will continue working with many different charities to ensure that my message reaches far and wide; a united front is better than tackling an issue on your own.
M: FGM is a prevalent topic across the media here in the UK. We collaborated with Plan International UK to raise awareness with the #FGMrose campaign. Do you feel this kind of content is making a difference?
HW: It has made a huge difference and taken FGM to a broader audience. I always have a radio interview to go to, speaking to TV hosts and newspapers, or speaking to charities about it. All of these mediums have played a huge part in raising awareness; viral video campaigns also play a huge part.
The NHS have a great website and a booklet that defines everything FGM related in English that is easily understood by everyone. They are doing very well in their approach – training their staff, raising awareness, so that everyone can understand what it is and how we can manage and eliminate it.
M: Is this mass media coverage going to make a difference in communities outside of the Western world?
HW: The more everyone knows about it, the more funding we can get to go out to other countries, where FGM is the biggest issue. The Orchid Project have been out to these countries and taught communities about human rights, influencing over 7.5 thousand people to abandon the traditional rituals of FGM.
It is vital that charities like these engage the root of the problem and educate directly, getting deep into the roots and tackling the issue from there (locally) knowledge is freedom.
M: What more needs to be done on the ground to raise awareness of the issue?
HW: They must make it part of the curriculum – education is the magic key. We need to approach the issue from a young age and target children as they go through the transitional phase from primary to secondary school.
We need to be teaching them what is normal and what is not normal. I cannot emphasise how important this knowledge and education is for young people around the world.
To watch our work with Plan International UK to raise awareness of FGM, click here: #FGMrose
Follow Hibo on Twitter here: @HiboWardere
Hello! I’m Katie, a Radio graduate from Bournemouth University with a passion for producing and a love for socialising! I live in Surbiton and have a background in creating content, from children’s audio books to live campaigns for Spotify. I love cooking, music and attending all sorts of events.
What attracted you to the role at Marmalade?
I loved the focus on cause driven content and the aim to provide an impact. I think it’s important to make your audience really think and challenge the ordinary. I am seeking an opportunity to develop and progress my skills and Marmalade has a lot to offer!
Who would be your dream client/project?
I would love to work with clients such as Salvation Army and Fair Trade, and I’d love to work on a project that impacts upon the rehabilitation of refugees in the current crisis across Syria and Europe.
Special Skill: I can operate a sewing machine and can make a mean prawn, mango and coconut curry!
Movie/TV series of the month: Stranger Things. The way in which they have kept all of the connections and stylistic elements of an 80s horror, yet produced it as a contemporary series makes it extremely entertaining. I can’t wait for the next series!
Doodle a dream:
In an age where the public trust their personal data to online platforms, it would lead us to believe that a charity contributing its time and money into fundraising for various causes around the world could easily gain their trust. However research conducted by Populus on behalf of the Charity Commission this year, showed this was far from the case.
From the report, research showed that the overall level of trust and confidence in charities has fallen to 5.7 out of 10. Whether this is down to negative stories in the media about donation spend or lack of transparency within a charity, it is a significant decrease from the figure of 6.7 in 2012 and 2014.
84% of consumers globally said that they seek out responsible products whenever possible. If brands selling ethical products can gain the trust of consumers, why are people less willing to trust charities and what can be done to change this?
For the International Day of Charity, Marmalade spoke with Vicky Browning, Director of CharityComms, to find out more about the relationship between the public and charities, and how digital content & partnerships with creative agencies could potentially become a significant factor in helping to address negative public sentiment.
Marmalade: There have been several reports about trust of charities falling over the last few years – how have charities responded to this?
Vicky Browning: Levels of public trust in charities do fluctuate, but whatever the specific state of trust is at any given time, it’s not a subject charities can be complacent about or ignore. We have a unique position within our society and if the trust between the charity and supporter is undermined, it’s very significant. Parts of the public feel some charities have crossed the line between professionalism and corporatism and that has sat uncomfortably with some people. The whole issue has been a wake up call for the sector and we recognise that we can’t take the public’s trust for granted. I’ve seen levels of co-operation between charities working together to tackle this issue that I’ve not seen before, which is brilliant.
Fundamentally we need to be thinking about the supporter, about the people at the heart of this, switching from an organisational perspective to an audience perspective.
M: With so many people asking ‘where is the money going?’, what can charities do to clarify or justify their spend?
VB: The main way charities are tackling this is by being better at showing the effect of the work they’re doing, with the money they’re gven. This is a key factor – transparency. We want to be able to allow people to see the inner workings of how we operate. Especially now, in our digital era, people want to know about how things are working and what difference their money is making. Most charities are actually doing pretty difficult, important work; we need good people with experience to deliver things effectively, which is why we need to employ experienced, paid professionals alongside all the volunteers who give their time.
M: How important is emotive content in helping to foster stronger relationships between the public and the charity?
VB: People trust the brands that they know. Content that is front of mind is a large factor in trust. If you’ve heard of a brand, you’re more likely to trust it. By sharing content that connects with the cause and the public, charities are one step closer to gaining public trust. Anything that brings us back to connecting better with our supporters, as well as our beneficiaries, has got to be good for everyone. Making sure that we are connecting and engaging with supporters has become a major focus for charities. Three key factors that can make a successful connection between a charity and their audience are the connection to the cause, engagement with the audience and telling a compelling story.
M: The internet has been host to many viral fundraising campaigns such as ’22 push ups’ and ‘Find Mike’. Do you think charities should invest more time into creating unique marketing campaigns to raise awarenesss of their cause more effectively?
VB: Yes, they can be more effective in raising awareness, but they need to be underpinned by audience insight, truth and authenticity. The best ones succeed because of a complete understanding of the people they are trying to reach – a lot of these campaigns work when they have a really strong connection to the cause. I think it’s an opportunity for all charities to try and achieve transparency, openness and good communication, which applies whatever the size of the charity. Charities generally place a lot of value on a good marketing campaigns and most really understand the value of brand and how comms and marketing a brand are core to keeping awareness and understanding. It’s not a vanity spend, it is central to being able to deliver their charitable goals.
M: How do you think creative agencies can partner with charities to create emotive content and help make their voice heard?
VB: Working with a creative agency is a substantial opportunity for all charities, and there is real value in the relationship between the two. Creative agencies can be very effective in helping charities align creative ideas with those deeper insights and understanding. Creatives come in with the sparks and the ideas, teaming that with the comms knowledge of who the audience is and what motivates them. A brilliant idea won’t cut the mustard if it isn’t rooted in something that resonates with authenticity.
M: What can charities do to make sure that the public have the right knowledge of their key mission and purpose?
VB: Make the most of the digital environment. People want to ask questions and have them answered and that’s a fantastic opportunity for charities, but something we have to adjust to. Charities used to be broadcasters, telling people what we were doing. Now we’re able to have real-time conversations and that’s a different relationship, offering opportunities as well as challenges. I think one of the biggest weaknesses many charities have is that a lot of the cause areas they are working in are so complicated, they try and do everything. Trying to cover all the bases in all areas can dilute the message. Focusing on consolidating and identifying where charities can make the most difference will help build an effective understanding of each charity’s mission and purpose.
In response to the concerns about a decrease in public trust within the sector, CharityComms and its partners have come together to create a brand narrative for all charities to use. It sets out a narrative framework for how charities talk to the public about modern charities, telling a story about people making a difference, how charities harness people’s goodwill and combine it with their professional expertise and vision to create the biggest possible impact. The hope is to help people feel confident in the way charities work. The next steps? A communications toolkit for charities to use when speaking to the media on behalf of the sector and a public facing website explaining how charities work.
Marmalade works with some of the worlds leading global NGOs and brand charity partnerships. To see how we help them create impact with their audiences click here: marmaladefilmandmedia.com/creative/
Marmalade are super excited to announce their win for best social media campaign at the EVCOM Clarion Awards 2014 for our #FGMrose campaign created for Plan UK.
You can view the winning film here: