Efua Dorkenoo

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Efua Dorkenoo

Efua Dorkenoo.jpg
Efua Dorkenoo, January 2014
Born(1949-09-06)6 September 1949
DiedOctober 18, 2014(2014-10-18) (aged 65)
Other namesStella Efua Graham
EducationWesley Girls' High School
Alma materLondon School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
City University London
OccupationActivist, campaigner against female genital mutilation
Known forFoundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD)
Spouse(s)Freddie Green
Children2 sons

Efua Dorkenoo, OBE (6 September 1949 – 18 October 2014), affectionately known as "Mama Efua",[1] was a Ghanaian-British campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM) who pioneered the global movement to end the practice[2] and worked internationally for more than 30 years to see the campaign "move from a problem lacking in recognition to a key issue for governments around the world."[3]

Early years[edit]

She was born in Cape Coast, Ghana, where she attended Wesley Girls' High School.[4] She moved to London at the age of 19 to study nursing, and eventually earned a master's degree at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a research fellowship at City University London.[5] She was a staff nurse at various hospitals, including the Royal Free,[4] and it was while training as a midwife that she became aware of the impact of FGM on women's lives.[1][6]

Campaigning work[edit]

She joined the Minority Rights Group and travelled to various parts of Africa to gather information for what was one of the earliest reports published on FGM in 1980.[1] In 1983 she founded the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD), a British NGO that supports women who have experienced FGM and tries to eliminate the practice.[7][8] She began working with the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1995 and was the acting director for women’s health there until 2001.[5][9][10] She was Advocacy Director and, subsequently, Senior FGM Advisor for Equality Now (an international human rights organization).[5] She was close friends with Alice Walker, advising on and featured in the documentary film Warrior Marks (1993) made by Walker and Pratibha Parmar[11] and with Gloria Steinem, who wrote an introduction to Dorkenoo's 1994 book Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation.[5]

Honours and recognition[edit]

In 1994, Dorkenoo was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.[5] In 2000, she and Gloria Steinem received Equality Now's international human rights award.[12] In 2012, she was made honorary senior research fellow in the School of Health Sciences at City University London, and in 2013 she was named one of the BBC's 100 Women.[4][13]

Dorkenoo's Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation (1994) was selected by an international jury in 2002 as one of the "Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century".[4][8][14]

Dorkenoo died of cancer in London at the age of 65 on 18 October 2014,[15] survived by her husband Freddie Green, her sons Kobina and Ebow, and her stepchildren.[9]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Cutting The Rose: Female Genital Mutilation the Practice and its Prevention (Minority Rights Group, 1994).
  • Report of the First Study Conference of Genital Mutilation of Girls in Europe/ Western World (1993)
  • Child Protection and Female Genital Mutilation: Advice for Health, Education, and Social Work Profession (1992)
  • Female Genital Mutilation: Proposals for Change (with Scilla Elworthy) (1992)
  • Tradition! Tradition: A symbolic story on female genital mutilation (1992)
  • As Stella Efua Graham with Scilla McLean (eds), Female Circumcision, Excision, and Infibulation (Minority Rights Group Report 47, 1980)


  1. ^ a b c "Obituaries: Efua Dorkenoo", The Times, 29 October 2014.
  2. ^ Alexandra Topping, "Efua Dorkenoo OBE, the ‘incredible African female warrior’, has died", The Guardian, 20 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Efua Dorkenoo remembered: 'My mother, mentor and wisdom'", BBC World News, 27 October 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Leyla Hussein, "Efua Dorkenoo obituary", The Guardian, 22 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e Jane Kramer, "Postscript: Efua Dorkenoo, 1949-2014", The New Yorker, 23 October 2014.
  6. ^ Emma Batha, "Anti-FGM campaigners mourn death of pioneer Efua Dorkenoo", Reuters, 20 October 2014.
  7. ^ "About Us", FORWARD.
  8. ^ a b "Efua Dorkenoo" Archived 2015-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Equality Now.
  9. ^ a b Douglas Martin, "Efua Dorkenoo, Who Campaigned Against Genital Cutting, Dies at 65", The New York Times, 27 october 2014.
  10. ^ Ella Alexander, "Efua Dorkenoo dead: Influential FGM women’s rights campaigner dies, aged 65", The Independent, 20 October 2014.
  11. ^ Tobe Levin, "Founder of FORWARD: Efua Dorkenoo", Our Bodies Ourselves.
  12. ^ "Remembering our friend and colleague, Efua Dorkenoo", Culture of Peace News Network (CPNN), 28 October 2014.
  13. ^ "100 Women: Who took part?", BBC World News, 22 November 2013.
  14. ^ "Africa's 100 best books of the 20th Century", Africa Studies Centre Leiden.
  15. ^ Emily Langer (23 October 2014). "Efua Dorkenoo, who fought female genital mutilation, dies at 65". Washington Post.

External links[edit]