Former Belsize Park pupils to launch UK’s first anti-FGM billboard advertising campaign

Tutor Terri Murray, with former students Kain Egan and Mabel Evans at Hampstead Fine Arts College. P

Tutor Terri Murray, with former students Kain Egan and Mabel Evans at Hampstead Fine Arts College. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Two former Belsize Park pupils are set to launch the UK’s first billboard advertising campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM).

Mabel Evans and Kain Egan, 19, raised more than £10,000 at a glamorous gala ball on Wednesday of last week to fund the crusade, which began from their classroom at Fine Arts College Hampstead in England’s Lane last year.

The pair, who have since left the college, now hope to use the funds to erect at least five billboards raising awareness of FGM in Ealing, where the practice is prevalent.

Mabel, who is on a gap year, said: “We couldn’t believe anti-FGM billboards hadn’t been erected before. If even one person sees it and questions what they are doing to their family, then that’s good enough for us.”

Kain, now a student at Goldsmiths, University of London, in New Cross, added: “Billboards are unavoidable. You can’t help but read what they are saying. You can warn people as hard as you want to.”

Mabel and Kain only became aware of FGM when their Fine Arts College film studies teacher Terri Murray spoke about the practice, which is illegal in the UK, in a lesson on female empowerment.

Shocked by the fact FGM is all too common a practice in many parts of the world, the students filmed a documentary on the issue for their final year coursework.

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It is thought that more than 20,000 girls are at risk of undergoing FGM, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, every year in the UK. About 66,000 women are thought to be living with the consequences.

In the UK, the practice is most prevalent among African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities.

It is often carried out in the belief it will be beneficial for the woman or girl because it will reduce libido and discourage sexual activity before marriage.

Kain, of Earl’s Court, said: “It had never crossed my mind that somebody would do that to their daughter.

“It shocked me most that it is done out of love and a want to protect.”

Once the film was completed, two FGM survivors, who were interviewed by the students for the film, suggested that they take their crusade one step further by raising funds for an awareness campaign.

While anti-FGM billboards are common in places like Somalia, the UK has never had a poster advertising campaign before.

A small team led by the two former pupils worked for months to work on preparations for the glittering “Vavengers” gala fundraiser in Vauxhall last week.

Stand-up comedians, live music, and an auction of artworks helped to easily exceed the pair’s £10,000 fundraising target. They now hope they can put the extra money towards more billboards.

They are also eager to make the gala an annual event.

Ms Murray, director of studies at Fine Arts College, said: “I am just incredibly proud of both of them and I was really very impressed by the professionalism with which they took on this project.”