One Woman at a Time

TV star Leanne Brown’s bid to stamp out female genital mutilation (FGM)


February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM) and Real Housewives of Cheshire star Leanne Brown has teamed up with UK charity One Woman At A Time with the aim of eradicating it.

The charity, founded by retired Lancashire midwife Jean Anderson, supports women and girls in Kenya, India and the UK who are at risk of forced marriage, FGM and domestic abuse to gain economic power and have choices over their lives.

According to the Demographic Health Survey of 2014, around 21% of women and girls in Kenya have undergone the cut. In the most remote villages, the practice stands at 100 percent, and One Woman At A Time provides grants and bursaries for girls in the remote Pokot region of Kenya, which is one of the main Kenyan FGM practising communities, to get an education – and therefore change their fates.

“Women who have undergone FGM – also known as female circumcision – are significantly more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth and that their babies are more likely to die as a result of the practice,” says Leanne.

“Girls who refuse to have FGM or run away due to the threat of it are often ostracised from their families, new husbands, and communities. They have no money and nowhere to go, it’s heartbreaking, but what they all do have is a sheer determination and courage to dare to want more, a better future.
“Now, thanks to One Woman at a Time, they’re bucking the long tradition of girls as young as seven undergoing FGM and as young as fourteen being sold into forced marriages for a dowry of livestock.

“These girls are now leaving their village communities, gaining an education and changing the course of their lives,” adds Leanne. “Having three girls of my own, Jean’s work resonated with me and I knew I wanted to help raise as much awareness and funds to combat this injustice for women and girls, which I will continue to do so indefinitely.”

The World Health Organisation defines FGM as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’.

Despite FGM being outlawed in Kenya in 2001, there is still a huge amount of social pressure on families to have their daughters cut ‘ready for marriage’, and as a result, FGM is now increasingly conducted underground, secretly in homes or in clinics by healthcare providers and workers, leaving these girls maimed for life.

While 200 million females alive today are believed to have undergone FGM, there are an estimated three million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation each year – including in the UK – with the majority of them being cut before they turn 15 years old.

About One Woman At A Time About One Woman At A Time was founded by Jean Anderson, who first experienced FGM first hand when she went to Africa as a midwife in the 1990s.

The retired Lancashire midwife found herself in rural Kenya travelling in a makeshift ambulance with a Pokot tribeswoman, Margaret Lulimas, who was dying following complications in childbirth cause by FGM.

Her death and the connection that two women made, and the responsibility that Jean took on for Margaret’s children’s education, became the catalyst of a small movement of empowered women whose mission is to empower other women who do not have choices.

Jean was determined to try and educate and stop this practice and One Woman at a Time was born.

In partnership with local NGOs, One Woman at a Time offers women and girls grants and bursaries to go to school, university, nursing college and on vocational training courses, and currently supports over 300 women and children.

“Margaret Lulimas represents all of the women who have died in childbirth and she will not be forgotten,” says Jean. “There are many campaigners in Kenya and all over the world trying to shift the attitude of community leaders, parents and teachers, but FGM is a business of economics.

“Cut girls forced into early marriages for livestock keep these communities going. The message that we are pushing is that educated girls are more likely to find work and provide food for their family.”

February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.


• Educated girls are:

• Less likely to die in childbirth

• Less likely to get married at an early age

• Less likely to have children at an early age

• More likely to provide better nutrition for their children

• More likely to find work

• More likely to narrow the gender pay gap

• There are still 31 million girls of primary school age out of school, yet there are 4 million fewer boys than girls out of school

For more information or to support or donate to One Woman At A Time, visit
For media enquiries, call Simone Gupta on 07825 280334 or

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