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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

UNICEF and partners aim to end harmful practices towards children and women in Guinea-Bissau

October 4, 2011

CANQUEBO, Guinea-Bissau, 4 October 2011 - Thanks to the intervention of the NGO Tostan, whose ongoing actions are helping to change long-held erroneous attitudes, customs, and traditions, the inhabitants of Canquebo village can now rest assured that the days of harmful practices towards women and children are numbered.

With additional support from UNICEF and UNFPA, such human rights violations as early and forced marriage, lack of girls’ education, absence of  birth registration, and female genital mutilation/circumcision are finally becoming a thing of the past in Canquebo.

Indicator of change

Mariama Seide, coordinator of the Community Management Committee, recently commented on the initiative to end these customs. "We are aware of the negative consequences of involuntary and early marriage," she said. "Now the girl is asked whether or not she agrees to the husband chosen. If she refuses, then the family is forced to accept her position.”

Domestic violence has also been common among couples in Canquebo. Women would be routinely beaten by their husbands and forced into silent submission, unable to attend community meetings and have their voices heard.

"Just for me to be here speaking to you is a strong indicator of change,” said Ms. Seide with a smile. “This is the result of the profound work undertaken by the NGO Tostan in our community.”

Focus on education

A major factor spurring the positive change is education. Queba Dindima Seide, the head of the Canquebo community, highlighted the importance of literacy, stating that all the women in the community are able to read and write.

This focus on education extends to the children in the community as well. Rather than labouring in the crop fields during cashew season – as was common in the past – the village youth now attend school normally.

"Many children didn’t go to school and some even abandoned school altogether,” said Seide Manque, a young member of the Community Management Committee. “However thanks to awareness-raising undertaken by Tostan, with support from UNICEF and UNFPA, the parents learned about children’s right to education, and over time all children returned to school.”

A positive impact

In addition to the efforts being made to educate their community, the issue of birth registration is also being addressed. Now children are being registered soon after their birth, as the community has been made aware that every child has the right to a name and nationality.

The community’s spiritual leader is also happy with the way the village has improved in recent times and stressed that Tostan, UNICEF and UNFPA’s interventions have made a decidedly positive impact on the lives of all the villagers – particularly women and children.

To read the full report on the UNICEF website, click here