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Friday, October 30, 2009

Africa Rising

Africa Rising: the Grassroots Movement against FGM in Africa.
Directed by Paula Heredia

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

13 villages in The Gambia say No! to FGC

Manneh Kunda, October 25
By Tostan
On Sunday, 13 Mandinka villages from the Upper River Region (URR) of The Gambia joined a growing movement in the country and in East and West Africa as they publicly declared their abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.
The declaration signaled the commitment of all 13 villages to abandon these and other harmful practices in order to promote and protect human rights. It was also a call to other Mandinka communities in The Gambia, West Africa, and diaspora communities worldwide, to join them in abandoning these practices.
The village of Manneh Kunda, approximately three kilometers from Basse, the largest town in the eastern-most part of the country, hosted the declaration event which was attended by hundreds of people. In attendance were government officials, the Director of the Women's Bureau, the UNICEF Representative for the URR, other NGOs, neighboring villages, and religious and traditional leaders from the URR.
The program included singing, dancing, and skits that depicted the reasoning behind this collective decision all performed by the URR National Troop and local youth groups celebrating the declaration. There were also several guest speakers, including local UNICEF Representative, Mariama Sabally, who spoke about Tostan’s respectful and non-judgmental approach, noting that it had enabled Tostan to succeed in shifting a deeply ingrained social tradition.
Yayhu Bangura, a local religious scholar instrumental in the social mobilization campaign that led to this declaration, reiterated that FGC is not a part of the Islamic faith and called on people present to help spread this information. Two former cutters from villages taking part in the declaration also testified, sang, and danced at the event. One woman explained how through Tostan she had come to understand that the health problems experienced by some girls, including death, were caused by the cutting rather than by witchcraft. Based on this information and her involvement in the Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), she voluntarily gave up cutting.
Closing the event, Regional Governor Yadi Nget expressed his support for the Tostan program and the declaration. He thanked the community members and Tostan, emphasizing in particular that the CEP teaches communities how to solve their own problems and explaining that this fosters and facilitates peace in the region.

Catholic Church in support of best practices

October 26
By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In condemning the practice of female genital mutilation, the Catholic Church must offer alternative rituals for helping girls mark the passage to womanhood, a bishop from Tanzania told the Synod of Bishops for Africa.

The appeal from Bishop Michael Mabuga Msonganzila of Musoma came in a written submission to the synod and was published by the Vatican Oct. 23. A condemnation of female genital mutilation was included in the 57 propositions the synod presented to Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 24.

Bishop Msonganzila had told the synod that the practice of female genital mutilation is widespread in his diocese.

"Despite campaigns that have been carried out, this cultural practice for so long has been taken to be part of the initiation process to maturity and to a new state of womanhood," he said[...]

"This is good. However, should that process be done through the butchering of the most sensitive part of one's body?" he asked.

"Women are born with certain body parts for good reason, just as men are. If God wanted those parts missing, why did he create them?" the bishop wrote.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: the Necessity to Include Men

October 23, 2009 - Dadaab (refugee camp), Kenya
by Eirin

In Dadaab refugee camps, up to 97 % of all women have undergone either sunna (type II) or infibulation (type III). The Somali community is known to practise infibulation, popularly known as ‘Pharaonic’. [...] Eradication of FGM/C in the Dadaab refugee camps was hampered by lack of support from men. The involvement of men in tackling the challenge is critical because they are the custodians of culture and gate keepers on religious issues. Indeed women believe that their daughters should be circumcised for men to accept them for marriage. On the other hand men dreaded the stigma of marrying uncircumcised girls and therefore reinforced the need to have them cut. In a baseline survey done by CARE in 2006, 43% of respondents agreed that men should not marry women who have not gone through FGM/C whereas 52% disagreed. To respond to the FGM/C challenge, CARE made FGM/C prevention and response initiatives a major component of the SGBV programme. Some of the strategies used to curb FGM/C are use of religious scholars from reputed institutions like SUPKEM to persuade religious leaders in the camps to advocate against the practice. The religious scholars initiate dialogue with religious leaders to delink FGM from religion. Support groups such as Men Against FGM (MAF) and One Man Can Teach that bring together positive deviants among men were also used to tackle the challenge. Male youth in camps have similarly been targeted for behaviour change communication strategies such as intergenerational debates, advocacy campaigns participation in calendar events and sports, and participatory education theatre (PET). Information, education and communication materials like t-shirts and caps targeting men were also used [...].

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reversal Female Genital Cutting procedure in Colorado

From Newsweek - October 20, 2009

By Eve Conant

One day, when Sila Folow was an 8-year-old girl living in Mali, four elderly women held her down on the dirt floor of an outhouse and, in keeping with local tradition, used a sharp blade to cut out her clitoris and most of her labia. Her grandmother and other villagers held a celebration. Sila, bleeding and in terrible pain, could not walk for weeks. Like millions of other African girls who are forced to undergo female genital mutilation—a ritual many women say is intended to ensure that they grow up to become sexually passive wives who will not stray from their husbands—Sila never recovered. She eventually moved to New York, married, and had two children. But she was reluctant to have sex with her husband. It hurt, and the scarring made it impossible for her to feel pleasure.
This May, Sila, now 38 years old, underwent a simple but profound operation to undo the past. She traveled to Trinidad, Colorado, where Dr. Marci Bowers, a gynecological and pelvic surgeon, has recently begun to perform "clitoralplasty" or "female circumcision reversals" on African women. A relatively new procedure, it reshapes the anatomy and, in 80 percent of patients, restores pleasurable sensation. "I want my womanhood back," Sila told Bowers when she first spoke to the surgeon about the operation. "I just want to know it's there. To have the feeling that I can fight against this culture" [...].

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

RIGHTS-UGANDA: Female Circumcision Still a Vote Winner

KAMPALA, Oct 19, 2009 by Wambi Michael Since her childhood, Gertrude Chebet had been told of the day she would become a woman. She was led to believe it would be a great moment of change and it was something to look forward to with much joy. As she and her sister began that early morning trek, from their village in eastern Uganda, in the cold and through the bushes to the place of initiation, she expected it to be the best day of her life. But she was wrong. It turned out to be the most harrowing. [...] Today Chebet is a primary school teacher and campaigns against female circumcision, otherwise known as female genital mutilation. Chebet condemns it as unnecessarily cruel and inhuman. She is the chairperson of the Kapchorwa/Bukwo Women in Peace Initiative, a lobby group advocating for the enactment of laws to abolish female genital mutilation. But it has turned out to be a long, hard battle to change an age-old tradition that involves the total removal of the clitoris and scraping of the female private parts. In fact, even those in positions of power are finding it difficult to change the culture of mutilation against young girls. While earlier this year President Yoweri Museveni condemned the practice, his government has been slow to pass a total ban on female circumcision, partly because his party needs the votes of those who largely support the practice. The strength of the voters is especially evident in communities where female circumcision is a wide-spread practice. Here, women who have not been mutilated have difficulty being elected and some have lost elections because of their anti- female genital mutilation campaign. Jane Frances Kuka, the former Gender Minister and former woman Member of Parliament (MP) for Kapchorwa district, an area that has laws banning female circumcision, lost her parliamentary seat partly for having campaigned against female genital mutilation. "My opponents used my stand against female genital mutilation as a weapon against me. Elders were saying who is this (she) to interfere with our culture?" she says [...]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Female Genital Mutilation in Kurdistan -The Unfruitful Efforts - First Report-2009

October 2009
Prepared by: FGM awareness teams in Rania, Qaladeza, Garmian, Slemany. Under the Supervision of WOLA "Women Legal Assistance Organization"
Edited by; Falah Muradkhan Shakrm/ Coordinator General/ WADI/ Iraq
Translated by : Dr. Goran Abdullah

The Unfruitful Efforts

In 2005, our NGO [ suggested to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), that if it would "start combating and eliminating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the region, it would establish itself as a leader in this field and would enhance the respect of the government as a row model for the rest of the nations of the Middle East". However, after 5 years of hard struggles and field work to combat FGM in Kurdistan, and despite the piles of data, statistics and documents about the practice that were presented to the Parliament of Kurdistan, we are unfortunately announcing that the practice still continues. Since February 2008, FGM has been covered with a vile of silence in the Halls of the Parliament, despite the fact that a project of a bill in this regard is ready and had been signed by 68 members of parliament.

In an even more disappointing step, the Ministry of Health (MoH) had in the beginning responded to our demands and offered to meet. But after three meetings with the Minister of Health and all the Director Generals in the Ministry which resulted in an action plan to combat FGM, the Minister of Health (Dr. Abdulrehman Othman) had broke all of his promises, boycotted our NGO, disregarded all the data we presented to him and characterized the latter as false and inaccurate including those statistics from the Department of Maternal Health of the MoH that were collected from 2007 to 2008 in Erbil city. According to the very Ministry's estimations, out of all the women visited the department, 30929 were genitally mutilated and circumcised.
It is surprising that at the same time that the KRG is claiming to recruit resources and effort to combat gender based violence, it turns a blind eye on FGM and doesn’t regarded it as a violence against women. This is happening while the whole world recognizes FGM as one of the most dangerous forms of violence [...]

Female genital mutilation still practiced in Egypt (France 24)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Breaking the Silence in Guinea

April 2009

Ending FGM in Sierra Leone

Posted by Sulakshana Gupta on Monday, October 12, 2009

Recently some progress has been made towards eliminating FGM in Sierra Leone, by addressing the women that actually perform the ceremony, the sowies (initiators). Many have agreed to stop forcing girls below the age of 18 to undergo circumcision. Also, in some parts of the country they've consented to give it up as altogether if provided an alternate source of livelihood.

Human rights groups have been beating their drums against FGM for years. The process of initiation has less controversial aspects, such as training in singing, dancing and how to manage household chores, but it's the actual circumcision part that is hotly debated.

One of the main concerns is the initiation of teenage girls. Traditionally, young girls are taken into the bush as soon as they hit puberty, although different ethnic groups do it at different ages. Some initiate girls as young as three and five and sometimes even a month-old baby.

In 2007, the Government of Sierra Leone passed the Child Rights Act, which prohibits acts of cruelty against children. The Act doesn't explicitly decry FGM, presumably because the practice enjoys a considerable amount ofpolitical endorsement. A number of local NGOs, however, have been travelling around the country sensitizing sowies about child rights and the need for informed consent to circumcision. As a result, a growing number are on board with only initiating adult women.

I met with one of these NGOs in the village of Grafton in the outskirts of Freetown. The group is Sabi Yu Right (Know Your Rights) and they've registered 60 initiators in the vicinity from the two main ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, the Mendes and the Temnes. Haja Konneh, head initiator of the Mendes in Grafton, says that they had signed a memorandum of understanding with Sabi Yu Right that stated they would only initiate girls who came in willingly and were over 18. 'Sometimes a girl who is 17 comes in but we send her back and tell her to come back in a year,' she says. Soko Kamara, the Temne chief, adds that it is easier to conduct the ceremony if the woman is emotionally mature, instead of a wailing adolescent who doesn't understand what is happening to her. [...]

"L'appel de Diegoune" at the Geneva Film Festival

Geneva, October 9, 2009

L’Appel de DiĆ©goune, directed by Marc Decosse and Eric Dagostino, tells the story of a campaign to end the practice of female genital cutting in Senegal, and one village’s decision to abandon this tradition.

The 39-minute documentary consists of testimonies from an array of village members, from mothers and fathers to the local physician and the village chief, explaining why they have decided to take this decision. The movie, screened in support of the Millenium Goal of improving maternal health, was overwhelmingly hopeful in its message of improving lives through education (in this case around the negative effects of female cutting, or female genital mutilation-FGM) and in portraying the success of this campaign.

Over 90 villages announced they were abandoning FGM following the campaign undertaken in 2008 by an organization named “Tostan” or Breakthrough, in the Wolof language. A breakthrough indeed. The short film, which was focused on individual testimonies, did not address the hard work that such an educational program must entail. However, a representative from Tostan was on hand to answer questions during the post-movie discussion.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Historic Pledge Against Female Genital Cutting in Somalia

In the Northeast zone of Somalia where female genital cutting (FGC) is almost a universal practice, a public pledge to abandon FGC is making history .

According to Tostan, an organization whose mission it is to "empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights", 14 villages in Puntland became the first group of communities in the region to agree to abandon the practice of FGC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Niger: public declaration against FGM (April 2009)

African women condemn female genital mutilation

Scandinavia penalizes female "circumcision" through controversial laws

In the light of immigrant mothers taking their Europe-born daughters on vacation to Africa to be circumcised, the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are on a campaign to stop perpetrators of genital mutilation among immigrants at home and abroad.

To wage the war against FGM, Scandinavian countries institute punitive jail sentences, record damages, and impose stringent but controversial immigration laws. Female circumcision is considered illegal in Scandinavian countries, ‘even if it happens in another country and even if the practice is legal in that country.’ ‘Perpetrators — such as a girl’s parents — are being prosecuted upon return to Scandinavia and face up to 10 years in prison.’

Anti-female circumcision laws began to be implemented in Sweden in 1982, in Norway in 1986, and in Denmark in 2003.