Ogilvy and Mather London created the advertisements to raise awareness about FGM – a crime where a girl or woman’s genitalia is cut for ‘cultural reasons’ – back in April, on behalf of anti-FGM charity 28 Too Many.
The adverts depict flags of western countries – such as the union jack – splattered with blood stains and with thick thread ‘sewing’ them back together.
A message printed on the flag reads: "Female genital mutilation doesn't only happen in far away places. Over 50,000 girls in the UK are at risk."
The ‘It happens here’ campaign was designed to raise awareness about the fact that FGM is still carried out in countries like the UK, even though it is illegal.
It attracted outrage from many FGM survivors and campaign groups. But the campaign this week won a Gold and Bronze award at the Cannes Lions – the most prestigious global advertising awards.
One campaigner, who has undergone the barbaric practice herself, said the ad was ‘disgusting’ and should be taken down immediately.
Nimko Ali, who co-founded anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve, said: “I’m shocked they won the award. [The flags are] disgusting.
“It’s so graphic and we have worked so hard to get the conversation about seeing [FGM] as violence against women and girls, and we need to work within that framework.
“We’re trying not to stigmatise and traumatise girls but this ad does."
Ali, who underwent FGM as a child, added: “I shook when I saw it. It depicts the most invasive form of FGM and it’s what I had.
“I think there are girls out there who will see it and feel the same way. It won’t help them.”
There are three 'types' of FGM: the partial or total removal of the clitoris; the partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; and narrowing the vaginal orifice by cutting and repositioning the labia. The latter appears to be depicted on the posters.
The End FGM European Network agreed that the ‘It Happens Here’ campaign could stigmatise FGM and was not helpful to survivors.
A spokesperson told Telegraph Wonder Women: “We need campaigns which encourage a discussion around the fact that FGM is a reality in Europe and across the world.
“Using images which empower and enhance the dignity of survivors and those at risk is vital to this discussion. Stigmatising imagery can alienate affected communities even more and we need to ensure that they are central to ending FGM.”
Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive officer of Ogilvy and Mather London, responded saying: "It Happens Here is designed to be a hard-hitting and provocative campaign to raise awareness of the horrific abuse suffered by hundreds of thousands of girls every year.
"The bold imagery is intended to shock and reach an audience typically unaware of the issues of FGM. The response to this campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and we hope it continues to raise awareness, and support 28 Too Many in their efforts to end female genital mutilation once and for all."
The charity 28 Too Many was unavailable for comment, but Dr Ann-Marie Wilson, executive director, previously spoke about the campaign, saying:
“FGM is not just being performed in Africa, the Middle East and Asia but is taking place here, in Europe, on our very own door steps.
"This emotive campaign visually encompasses the concept that FGM is not an out of sight, out of mind problem but at present a risk to over 60,000 girls in the UK.”
From The Telegraph: