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Friday, February 27, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
(From the Steamboat Pilot)
Steamboat Springs — Editor’s note: Clark resident Mary Walker works at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center was built in 2002 with funding from the United Nations, and it provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker’s updates from Kenya appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.
At the time of my last update of my work at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Kenya, the nationwide teachers strike had paralyzed primary education in that country. I described the possible repercussions if the strike moved into secondary schools, which was to happen any day at the time of my writing.
Fortunately, the strike has been resolved, and all children in Kenya have returned to school. The conditions of the resolution are troubling, however, and do not promise a long-term solution to the woeful pay that teachers in Kenya receive from the government. The government has promised most primary teachers a 40 percent pay increase as long as there is “substantial” improvement in the Kenyan economy within two years. I don’t need to belabor the point that the chances of this improvement in a struggling, developing country at this time are nonexistent.
Nationwide events, such as the post-election violence of last year and this year’s teachers strike, pose a particular challenge to the majority of secondary school students in Kenya who attend boarding schools. When schools are closed and students are sent home for long, unspecified periods of time, their access to the resources and tools to guide their education come to a virtual halt for months at a time. The students who can manage the break are those who live in economically stable households with electricity and supportive parents.
But other students go home to living conditions that make studying very difficult. Lack of electricity, poor nutrition, lack of clean water at home and undereducated parents who cannot foster a positive learning environment all conspire against these children. For them, the boarding school environment is their only opportunity to succeed. It is not surprising that only 2 percent of students who complete high school in Kenya go on to college, university or vocational training.
The Tasaru Scholarship Fund is bucking this trend. With about 50 girls living at the rescue center, the fund currently is supporting two girls in teachers’ training colleges in Kenya with sponsorships in place for at least five more girls next year. I’m not a math whiz, but I think that represents seven times the national average in Kenya for college attendance. These girls are Maasai victims of female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. The impact of the opportunity that these girls now have as made possible by this fund is incalculable. They will be the vanguard in the effort to combat these practices through education. They will see the end of these practices in their lifetimes.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By Gabrielle Devon
THANKS to members of Cataluña’s regional police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, during 2008, 104 girls living in the region were spared the ordeal of going through the suffering caused by genital mutilation, a practice carried out mainly in African and Asian countries.
They have managed to prevent 18 so far this year.
Since the year 2000, Mossos d’Esquadra have contacted the families of girls whom they consider may be at risk of undergoing this procedure, considering their country of origin and the fact that they may not have abandoned this barbaric custom.
Officers inform them of the inherent dangers the procedure involves, and try to dissuade them from returning to their country of origin for the ritual to be performed or from having it carried out here by clandestine witch-doctors operating in Spain.
The parents are also informed that in Spain, this practice is considered a crime which will incur the full force of the law.
According to statistics released by the regional government, in Cataluña alone, there are more than 13,000 girls at risk and 4,846 of them are under the age of 19.
Their objective to bring an end to female genital mutilation is unique in Europe and has prevented almost 100 cases per year since it began.
Last year, some 300 officers participated in a special course to learn more about female genital mutilation and recently a delegation travelled to the Gambia to provide information on site to families there, even managing to get one community to promise not to carry out any more of the rituals.
Many of the families living in Spain apparently do not want their daughters to undergo the procedure, but upon returning to their countries of origin feel pressured to conform by the society that exists there. Some communities believe that it is beneficial for a woman’s health, maintaining cleanliness as there are no sexual secretions. Others believe that if a child touches its mother’s clitoris while being born, it will die. However, it is mainly used to prevent young girls from having sexual urges and to maintain their virginity until marriage, something which guarantees they will be accepted by their future husband.
Women allow the procedure as they believe it will bring pleasure to their partners and guarantee them a successful marriage.
The origin of female genital mutilation is unknown and although it is carried out in many Moslem countries, it is not related to Islam or any other known religion.
There are several types of female genital mutilation, but all procedures involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia.
In some cases, there is a narrowing of the vaginal orifice as well as cutting of the clitoris, labia minora and/or labia majora, which are then held together using thorns or stitches.
Reports suggest that the girl’s legs are tied together for two to six weeks, to prevent her from moving and to allow healing. This can be reversed to allow sexual intercourse or when undergoing labour, which becomes extremely difficult and painful, and can result in tearing and death of the child if the birth canal is not opened sufficiently.
Surprisingly, a study has revealed that the majority of women who have been subjected to this extreme sexual mutilation claim to experience sexual desire, pleasure and orgasm, in spite of their being culturally bound to hide such feelings.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) declared February 6 as ‘International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation’, and Egypt has passed a law banning the practice. Sheikh Ali Gomaa stated: “The traditional form of excision is a practice totally banned by Islam because of the compelling evidence of the extensive damage it causes to women’s bodies and minds.
20,000 girls may be at risk of female genital mutilation in the UK. The charity Forward urges schools to watch out for the signs
Although there are many different types of FGM, almost all involve the removal or cutting of some part of the female genitalia. Health risks from this practice include urinary tract infections, infertility, and the spread of tetanus and HIV from unsterilised blades. Because most FGM is carried out on young children under duress and without anaesthetic , there is almost always a psychological fallout.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but new legislation in 2003 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and in 2005 in Scotland, also made it an offence to force a child to undergo FGM abroad. Despite the introduction of this legislation there have been no convictions.
Clare Chelsom, an officer working for Project Azure, the Metropolitan police's leading team against FGM, said at the launch of this years prevention campaign: ‘We know that FGM can be seen as an act of love for children. We know that some parents would like to say no to FGM but feel under pressure. We’re more interested in the perpetrators making money from this practice than the parents.’
Chelsom believes that the lack of convictions is due to the fact the offence is under-reported: ‘Like most cases of child abuse, we have to rely on a child telling on their parent or in some cases their whole community. There may be fears of authority, language or immigration issues. In some cases, hard-to-reach communities may not even know the law.’
According to Forward’s fact sheet: ‘The justifications given for the practice are multiple and reflect the ideological and historical context of the societies in which it has developed. Reasons cited generally relate to tradition, power inequalities and the ensuing compliance of women to the dictates of their communities.’
Signs to look out for
Suspicions may arise in a number of ways that a child is being prepared for FGM to take place abroad. These include knowing that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practised and is making preparations for the child to take a holiday, arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school. The child may also talk about a ‘special procedure/ceremony’ that is going to take place.
Indicators that FGM may already have occurred include prolonged absence from school, with noticeable behaviour change on return and long periods away from classes or other normal activities, possibly with bladder or menstrual problems. Some teachers have described how children find it difficult to sit still and look uncomfortable or may complain of pain between their legs or talk of something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to talk about.
Where children might be at greater risk
Forward’s recently published research, A Statistical Study to Estimate the Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales, is available from the Forward website. This research identifies areas of England and Wales where children may be more at risk of FGM based on the numbers of people resident from known FGM practising countries.
Forward identifies 29 African countries where FGM is known to be practised to some extent; Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda are identified as having the highest numbers of women who have experienced FGM.
However, as the research points out, defining risk based on country of origin may present a false view; families may change their attitudes towards FGM as a result of living in another culture and may have moved to a new country to escape pressure from their community to have their daughters subjected to FGM.
Forward’s research recommends that further research into the risk of FGM to children in this country should be undertaken. It also recommends that all professionals with responsibility for safeguarding should be made aware of FGM as a form of child abuse and how to refer their concerns. Forward suggests that schools should be prepared to talk to families where they have concerns that the family may be planning to take their daughters abroad to undergo FGM and make them aware of the law.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
10 February 2009
GAMCOTRAP, an NGO working for the eradication of harmful traditional practices, has on Friday, 6th February, 2009, celebrated 'Zero Tolerance Against FGM' at the Barra Hotelin the North Bank Region.
February 6th, is observed the world over as a day meant for calling for an end to Female Genital Mutilation.
Speaking on the occasion, which was attended by school children, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray, said the Zero Tolerance Against FGM was perceived in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), in 2003, when eighteen first ladies came up with a resolution looking at the issue of harmful traditional practices and how it affects the sexuality and well being of girls and women.
Dr. Touray said this resolution was later adopted by the United Nations. She told the gathering that her organisation is quite aware of the fact that a lot of work needs to be done in the North Bank Region and that they are trying to mobilise the necessary resources to carry out activities.
The GAMCOTRAP head used the occasion to read the following press release from the Inter-Africa Committee of UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.:
To observe February 6, 2009, as International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutulatur, the inter Africa Committee on traditional practices are with her affiliates and partners across the world, calls on governments, parliamentarians, UN agencies, NGOs, donor community, religious leaders, community leaders, youths, communities and members of the press to make a greater commitment to ensure the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation.
The theme for this year's observation is political will at the centre of achieving Zero Tolerance to FGM. The objective of observing February 6 is to draw the attention at the international and national levels to efforts that need to be exerted to force women and girls free from FGM, to accelerate action towards its elimination by the said target date of 2010.
According to the common agenda for action or 2015 being the target of MDGs.
Why focus on Female Genital Mutulation? Female Genital Mutulation is violence against women. It a violation of human rights principles, as stipulated in article 24:3 of the Convention on the Right of Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, other internationals and regional instruments and the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and People's Right, relating to the Rights of Women.
The MDGs advocate for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health. FGM refers to any practice that involves the partial or total removal or alteration of the external female genetalia or organs for none medical reasons. By a conservative estimate, about two million women and girls are subjected to FGM world wide with devastating consequences. Studies have shown a co-relation between FGM and high infant and materials mortality and mobility in African countries where FGM is practiced. There is also clinical evidence that FGM presents a serious risk in the transmission of HIV/AIDS, especially among societies who practice it as an initiation rite, using the same instrument on many girls at the same time.
February 6 was unanimously adopted at the International Conference on Zero Tolerance, organised by the Inter Africa Committee, from February 4th to 6 2003 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Representatives at the conference came from forty nine (49) countries, including four first ladies from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali and other representatives, ministers and parliamentarians, community and youth leaders.
IAC National Committee in twenty eight African Countries, its affiliates and partners in Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand , Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and USA will mark February 6 2009.
Some of the activities being organised by the inter Africa Committee include press conference, press interviews, theatre shows and songs by a school club in Addis Ababa, the headquarters of IAC.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
APA - Douala (Cameroon) Many Cameroonian women undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), with the magnitude of the disaster particularly reported in four of the country’s ten regions, APA learns Sunday from reliable sources.
The phenomenon affects more than 20 percent of the female population, according to official statistics released by the Ministry of Women and Family Promotion (MINPROFF).
The second World Day to Combat Female Genital Mutilation marked Friday under the theme "Fighting Against Female Genital Mutilation: a commitment for all”, was the occasion to note that the practice was still rooted in Cameroonian society.
These regions are Central, Eastern, Far North and the South-west, where there is a high concentration of animists and Muslims but also among the Christians in Yaounde, the capital.
Studies have shown that three types of FGM are practiced in Cameroon.
These include the type of excision called “Sunna”, which refers to the removal of part of the clitoris, then the “Clitoridectomy”, which is a complete removal of the clitoris with labia minora and finally the “infibulation”, that is an excision combined with removal of the labia majora with suturing of the two stumps.
“People used to cut them with the stalks of millet, then the razor blade, but nowadays knife is used to do so,” an excision practitioner said.
In addition to the psychological implications, women who have undergone genital mutilations face many risks such as the STDs/AIDS contamination, tetanus, including death itself.
The Cameroon Family Code does not recognize female genital mutilation, which exposes practitioners to custodial sentences and fines.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
"Some 70 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to female genital cutting," UNICEF Executive Director Ann M Veneman said in a message on the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation.
"While some communities have made real progress in abandoning this dangerous practice, the rights, and even the lives of too many girls continue to be threatened," she added.
Female genital mutilation or cutting is the partial or total removal of the external genitalia -undertaken for cultural or other non-medical reasons- often causing severe pain and sometimes resulting in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.Genital cutting can produce complications during child birth, increasing the chances of death or disability for both mother and child. More efforts needed to end female genital mutilation: UNICEF http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/001200902071580.htm
Friday, February 6, 2009
Former traditional practitioner helps moving towards the abandonment of female genital cutting in Niger
Only educating girls can help eradicate female circumcision
Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark the international day of zero-tolerance to FGM. There have been efforts to fight the practice in Uganda, but, among others, the practice is fuelled by poverty. Frederick Womakuyu writes that it is only through provision of scholarships to girls and benefits to the surgeons that the practice will be completely wiped out...