ActionAid Blog

Actress and ActionAid ambassador Emilia Fox recently travelled to Ethiopia, where over a quarter of the population live below the poverty line. Her diary highlights what she saw of our work helping women and children in extreme poverty to change their lives, and tells about the inspiring people she met. Scroll down to see the video of her trip. 

Emilia listens to students reading at the Annaso school in Girar Jarso community, Ethiopia.
Emilia listens to students reading at the Annaso school in Girar Jarso community, Ethiopia.
Photo: Greg Funnell/ActionAid

Day one

I visited Annaso school, where the classrooms are small rooms made of mud and straw with few desks or benches to sit on. Sometimes the rooms have to hold 60-100 children.

This is one of seven schools being supported by ActionAid in Ethiopia.

F. G. M. Three innocent letters. Yet for millions of girls they represent the end of their childhood and the beginning of a lifetime of misery. 140 million women and girls have been cut worldwide, but it's stories like these from Kenya which bring the horror of that statistic to life. These women's experiences show why it's so important to keep fighting to end FGM.

Pamela, 15, had an agonising birth because of FGM. She is now scared to become pregnant again.
Pamela, 15, had an agonising birth because of FGM. She is now scared to become pregnant again.
Photo: Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid

Protecting girls from FGM is so much more than protecting them from a one-off painful experience. Because FGM can cause long-term health problems, and often leads to girls being married off at a young age, it can cause huge suffering for the rest of a girl's life.

Whether you're a novice runner or a seasoned pro, the Royal Parks Half Marathon is quickly becoming London's favourite running event. Check out our top seven reasons why lacing up your running shoes could be the best decision you make this summer.

Running the Royal Parks half marathon in London
Running the Royal Parks half marathon in London
Photo: Royal Parks Foundation/ActionAid

1. Enjoy the stunning London route

We think that this is THE most beautiful race in the UK. Running through London's beautiful royal parks and past world famous landmarks including the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, it's a great way of seeing British culture at its best - but without the crowds and queues.

Imagine you’ve just had the worst, most painful experience of your life, and then you’re left in a room for three months with your legs tied up so you can't escape. Then you’re married off against your will, to a much older man you’ve never met and he beats you every day.

Damaris was just 11 when she had FGM. This is her story.

Damaris with two year old Chapkopus
Damaris with her 2-year-old daughter Chapkopus, in their home in West Pokot, Kenya
Photo: ,Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid

As we sat in her hut, in a small village in northern Kenya, with her tiny daughter Chapkopus, two, wriggling on her lap, Damaris told me about her life. It was easy to tell that she was naturally shy, but that she urgently wanted to tell me what she had been through.

FGM: I didn’t even know what it was

“When I was 11 I was forced to undergo the cut," Damaris told me. "I didn’t even know where on my body I would be cut but I did know that I didn’t have a choice, nor did my four friends. It happened really early one morning.

Many governments talk about their plans to combat violence against women, but these often miss the vital ingredient – the women who work with these issues every day. Not so in Cambodia, where fearless women are fighting back against a cycle of violence and poverty – and are making the government’s plans better too.

Kunthea, a garment worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kunthea, a garment worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo: Savann Oeurm/ActionAid

Kunthea’s story

“I need to earn more money so I make myself work until eight or ten at night. I feel very scared cycling home in the dark… Once, a gang followed me on their motorbikes… Some other garment workers I know have even been raped.”

A shocking one in three women experience violence during their lifetimes. But at ActionAid, we see some of the thousands of fearless women leading the fight against violence. Najiba, from Afghanistan, works as a paralegal for women, giving hope to thousands in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. This is how she’s dedicated her life to defending women.

Najiba, right, with her family
Najiba, right, with her family
Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli for ActionAid

Najiba’s story

Najiba grew up dreaming of working for women’s rights and empowerment, only to have her education cut short by forced marriage as a teenager. She was devastated to see the same thing happening to countless women around her:

“My dream was to be a good advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan. I saw parents who didn’t allow girls to go to school, or stopped girls at the early stages of their study, forcefully arranged marriages, continued abuse by husbands and other close relatives. It upset me a lot and I decided to work for them.”