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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Female Genital Mutilation Banned by Islamic Leaders in Mauritania

January 27, 2011
Yahoo News
Wendy Rose Gould 

This week, 34 well-regarded Mauritanian religious and national leaders signed a fatwa, or Islamic law, banning female genital mutilation (FGM). The fatwa is considered a huge stride toward women's rights in the Islamic world.
Female genital mutilation, or genital cutting, is a form of female circumcision. It entails removing all or part of the external female genitalia, including the clitoris and labia.
It is often practiced on girls between the time they're born and their early teen years. After the circumcision is complete, many experience severe bleeding, difficulty urinating, childbirth complications and, in some cases, death.
According to the World Health Organization, the procedure has no medical benefits.
Female circumcision is not a religious practice. However, it has become a "law by custom," says Jacqueline Castledine in an article posted on the Mount Holyoke College website.
She states, "The practice has become important to Islam because it is associated with female sexual purity. FGM is intended by its practitioners to both control women's sexual drives and also to cleanse women's genitalia by removing the clitoris, which is seen as masculine, a female penis."
The law was passed on Jan. 15, 2011, by 34 Mauritanian religious and national figures. It prohibits the practice of FGM within the country.
According to, "The authors cited the work of Islamic legal expert Ibn al-Hajj as support for their assertion that [s]uch practices were not present in the Maghreb countries over the past centuries."
This new law will certainly curb the practice of female genital mutilation in Mauratania.
"It removes the religious mask such practices were hiding behind," says Dr. Sheikh Ould Zein Ould Imam, professor of jurisprudence at the University of Nouakchott in a article. "We do need, however, a media campaign to highlight the fatwa, explain it and expound upon its religious and social significance."
Many men and women -- both Islamic and not -- declared this a victory for female rights, saying the fatwa was long overdue.
"Where were those imams for the past decades, when [FGM] killed dozens of girls each year? Were the imams and circumcision victims on two different planets? Personally speaking, I find no answer to those questions. All I am trying to say is that we needed that circumcision-prohibiting fatwa a long time ago. I was victimized by that brutal custom when I was seven, and it left an indelible psychological scar," said Miriam, a 30-year-old housewife circumcised as a young girl.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

27 Fula Communities Abandon FGM, early and forced marriage

January 26, 2011
Today Newspaper 
Neneh Galleh Barry 

Thousands of people converged over the weekend at Sara Alpha village in Tumana District Upper River Region to witness the declaration of 20 Fula communities and seven adopted villages in Tumana-Kantora and Basse- Jimara to abandon the practices of female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage.

The villages are directly in the UNICEF TOSTAN and The Gambia government joint community led sustainable development project for the past three years with support from UNICEF. During the intervention, the 20 fula communities and seven adopted villages have successfully undergone a community empowerment program (CEP) modules on democracy, good government, human rights and responsibilities, problem solving process as well as health and hygiene.

According to the community, before the intervention of the joint project, issues of basic human rights and responsibilities, and in particular harmful traditions which have negative health implication on the welfare of women and girls, were hazy to them. However, with the new knowledge and skills gained from the community empowerment project (CEP) coupled with dialogue, consultation and social mobilization and advocacy activities, the community have now realized and understood the human rights and health implication of  some traditions.

Speaking before the gathering, the alkalo of Kolley Kunda, Alhagie Sarjo Sowe underscored the importance attached to the community empowerment project, implemented by TOSTAN within the URR in Basse. He noted that with the intervention, there has been immense contribution toward changing the lives of the people, adding that the project has also added more value to his community, having created more awareness about issues.

For her part, Binta Jawo, president of community management committee expressed delight that TOSTAN has brought changes in the livelihood of the people in Basse URR particularly in Kolley-Kunda in Kantora.

She further highlighted some of the achievement and development that the project has brought into the district, ranging from mutual understanding among families members, creating more awareness about the traditional life, and its impact to the society in particular to the girl child.

The education received by the community members on the dangers of FGM led to their decision to henceforth abandon the practice. According to her, the reality of the health implications of the practice on women and girl children stared them in face, and they could not but be sorry for having engaged in it for so long.

She also noted that many mothers in Kolley-Kunda were not aware of the importance attach to obtaining birth certificates for their children, adding that with the vigorous sensitization carried out within the villages, many now know where to apply for birth certificates for their children.

Other areas of the project intervention, according to her, were the planting of 80 mango trees. She said the community now understands well the importance of growing trees, a new realisation which saw them engage in a ‘massive tree planting exercise” last year.

According to the chairman of the village development committee, Mr. Saidou Kolley, the project intervention has built the capacities of the community people to tackle some issues by themselves. He said there are expected increases in the economic buoyancy of the people, thanks to TOSTAN. He said both men and women in particularly now engage in business in the weekly markets to improve their livelihood and that of their families.

For his part, Mr. Salifu Jarsey, a child protection specialist at the UNICEF commended the community for their high sense of participation. While noting that the results have been impressive, he urged the Fula communities to double their commitment to the sustainability of the project. Mr. Jarsey added that TOSTAN could continue to have fund through UNICEF with the support of the community. “Therefore, the Fula communities should emulate the Mandika in order for the Sarahule community to benefit from this very important project,” he said, adding that the successful implementation of the project depend on the communities’ participation.

Speaking at the declaration, the deputy governor of URR, Mr. Momodou S. Jallow also conveyed the regional government’s appreciation to TOSTAN, UNICEF and central government for ensuring that the project came to Basse. He then challenged the community to stand by their words, adding that this is the only way that the project could succeed. Mr. Jallow further advised the community to put their newfound knowledge into practice.

Other speakers all commended the director of TOSTAN the Gambia, Mr. Bakary Tamba for brining the valuable empowerment project to their community. They also thanked TOSTAN and UNICEF for coming to their aid at the right time.               

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Districts in Northern Ethiopia Declare an End to Female Genital Cutting

January 25, 2011
UNICEF Television
Chris Niles

UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on commitments in two districts of northern Ethiopia's Afar Region who declared to end the practice of female genital cutting.

For more information, please visit:

Girls Face 'Cut' as School Dropout Rate Rises

January 6, 2011
The Standard
Edwin Cheserek

KENYAMore than 500 girls who were circumcised in Marakwet District during the December holidays have been initiated into adulthood.
aThe girls started graduating in different groups from last week, with the last batch doing so last weekend.

The locations that had a high number of ‘graduands’ included Murkutwa, Ketut and Kibaimwa.

Cases of female circumcision are on the increase in the region despite the Government outlawing the rite. There are also high rates of school dropouts in the area.

Education officials have raised the red flag, warning of an increase in girls dropping out of school due to forced marriages after undergoing circumcision.

Area DEO Gabriel Chebiegon said many parents would marry off their daughters and appealed to the Provincial Administration to be on the lookout. "Parents in rural areas are commonly known for subjecting their daughters to forced marriage after they are initiated," said Chebiegon. "The culture has ruined future lives of young girls."

He warned unless those perpetuating the vice are arrested and prosecuted, the practice would continue unabated.

Schools in communities where FGM is rampant, he said, performed poorly in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams whose results were released last week.

Marakwet Girls Rights Chairperson Mary Kiplagat said efforts to fight female circumcision have failed owing to the strategies that have sought to erode the cultures of communities practising it.

She said elders and religious leaders should advocate for such retrogressive traditional cultures to be abandoned, but retain the initiation aspect.

"Leaders should set up a programme of guiding and counselling girls in conformity with our social norms and cultural values," she said.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thousands of Girls Undergo FGM During the Month of December

January 6, 2011
Desert Flower Foundation
Waris Dirie 

The past month has seen heated discussions on FGM in several East African countries where December is a traditional month for subjecting young girls to female genital mutilation as part of a rite of initiation. Especially in Kenya and Uganda, hundreds of girls became victims of FGM within the last month despite FGM being illegal in both countries.
Some commentators on the situation in Uganda criticize the government’s approach of criminalizing the practice, arguing that awareness raising campaigns cannot be replaced by laws when it comes to deep-rooted practices such as FGM. While criminalizing FGM will not lead to an eradication of the practice by itself, it sends out an important message to a countries society: that FGM is a crime and should be treated as such. At the same time, it is clear that education and empowerment are necessary in order to eradicate FGM, as this commentary from Uganda points out.
Others claim that there is a need for stricter enforcement, and that the UN should put pressure on governments that fail to effectively address a human rights violation such as FGM in their country.
In Kenya, observers note that despite attempts to replace FGM with alternative rites of passage, many girls continue to be mutilated as a result of pressure from the family and a lack of alternatives to arranged marriage.
“Laws against FGM are important because they make a clear statement about what FGM really is: a cruel crime and human rights violation against children. But it is also clear that if we do not address the root causes of FGM, if we do not improve the social status and recognition of women and the possibilities and chances for girls, laws alone will not be enough to eradicate this crime for good.”

Clinic to Fight Taboo of Female Genital Mutilation

January 6, 2011
Kate Thomas

BOBO-DIALOUSSO, BURKINA FASO // Africa’s first clinic designated for the reconstruction of female genitalia will open in Bobo-Dialousso this year. The clinic will offer free reconstructive surgery to women from across West Africa.

About 70 per cent of Burkina Faso’s seven million women are victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), a deep-rooted practice in West Africa. The ritual, common in a stretch between Senegal and Benin, can cause complications such as serious infections, excessive bleeding and stillbirths.

Mariam Banemanie, the director of Voices of Women, a Burkinabé non-governmental organisation that is paying for the clinic with Clitoraid, an NGO based in Las Vegas, said about 90 per cent of Burkinabé women in their 20s feel no sexual sensation. “Currently reconstruction is only available in the capital for a fee upwards of 160,000 CFA [Dh1,200]. That option isn’t available to every woman, which is why we’re excited about the construction of the clinic in Bobo-Dialousso,” Ms Banemanie said. “Burkina Faso is fast becoming the crossroads for genital reconstruction surgery in Africa.”

Thousands of African women between the ages of 18 and 70 have expressed interest in undergoing the surgery in Burkina Faso, according to Marissé Caissy of Clitoraid. Some plan to travel to Bobo-Dialousso from such neighbouring countries as Ivory Coast and Mali for the operation. Ms Caissy said sexual sensation is restored in about 90 per cent of cases. Recovery takes at least six weeks.

When the clinic opens in October, Abi Ouardé, 24, will be one of the first women through its doors.

Ms Ouardé carries herself like a woman in a hurry. She drives a shiny new Yamaha moped, slings a leather bag over her shoulder, wears a sleek black dress and bejewelled heels that match the royal blue of the mudguards. As she skids to a halt and shimmies off the moped, heads turn. She looks every inch the liberated West African woman.

But something is missing from Ms Ouardé’s life and she is eager to restore it. At the age of four she became a victim of genital mutilation. “Because sexuality is taboo in Burkina Faso, circumcised women are not supposed to talk about the fact that they don’t feel any sensation. It’s seen as something we just have to put up with,” she said.

Three years ago, Abibata Sanon, 36, became one of the first women in West Africa to undergo the procedure at a private clinic in Ouagadougou. She has since become a symbol of the fight against FGM. “Having the surgery seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a stand against FGM,” she said. Ms Sanon’s longtime boyfriend was eager for her to have the surgery and even helped pay for it. But women say the fact that many men still favour the practice is the biggest hurdle in the battle for gender equality in West Africa.

“Some men believe that a woman will never stray if her ability to feel pleasure is removed. It’s time for our voices to be heard. People are beginning to understand the concept of women’s liberation. Women deserve to feel good about themselves,” Ms Banemanie said.

Although FGM is banned in several West African countries, including Ghana and Burkina Faso, it remains widespread. The practice was deemed illegal in Burkina Faso in 1996, but rights groups say perpetrators have switched tactics to avoid detection, targeting toddlers and babies whose cries do not raise suspicion.

Ms Banemanie said once the restoration clinic opens, its presence might even serve as a deterrent. “If cut women are able to restore themselves, perhaps people will realise that it’s no longer worthwhile to continue with the cutting,” she said.

Since having the surgery, the effect on Ms Sanon’s life has been remarkable. A few months after undergoing the procedure, she told her mother, who backed her father when he took her to be cut as a baby, about the operation. “The reaction of my 70-year-old mother shocked me. She was very supportive and even now she keeps asking me when the clinic will open. I wonder if she wants to have the surgery herself.”

And then there is the effect on her personal life. “Until I had the operation, it was my boyfriend that called the shots. Now our relationship is more equal.”

Gamcotrap in Fresh Anti-FGM Offensive in CRR

January 6, 2011
Today: The Gambia's Daily Newspaper
Mustapha Mbenga, CRR

In a bid to extend the frontiers of their battle against female genital mutilation in The Gambia, Gamcotrap has joined forces with the Women’s Bureau to bring the thorny issue of female circumcision to the attention of military officers in Laminkoto barracks in the north of the Central River Region. 

At a two-day training workshop funded by the UNFPA’s country program, fifty participants were sensitized on the issues revolving around the practice in the country and how military officers can join the fight and secure The Gambia from the ills of a practice that leaves many young girls and women physically maimed and psychologically unsettled for life. 

In the opening remarks CRR Governor Alhajie Ganjie Touray acknowledged the “good” work by Gamcotrap to improve people’s awareness on FGM and commended its officials for targeting his region for the latest of their countrywide programme of sensitization which he hoped would lead to better practices which could benefit women and girls.

Governor Touray said discouraging FGM was necessary to avoid physical and mental ramifications which have contributed to setting the clock of progress back for many communities in regions across the country where FGM is still observed and practiced. He reasoned that since FGM was not categorically sanctioned by the Quran, it is up to members of the society to decide for or against it. However, he warned that those who insist on practicing it should bear in mind the consequences for victims.

According to Governor Touray, security personnel are necessarily part of this campaign as they belong to families and communities where the practice is regularly observed. He described it as a human rights abuse, calling for military officers whose duty is to defend people to join in the drive to banish the practice from The Gambia and make it safe for women and girls who have an inviolable right to live free of the fear of post-FGM situations. He said the campaign to wrest the country free from FGM practitioners is bound to be long and hard but posited that the presence of Gamcotrap and other human-interest organizations in their midst was clear evidence of the sincerity with which the issues were being addressed.  He assured his people that Gamcotrap was there to safeguard the interest of women and children. He explained the rationale behind Gamcotrap’s work, which is intended to foster the health of women and children.

He advised members of his community to seek information about FGM and its rapacious consequences before they take their women and girls under the circumciser’s knife.   “There is grave danger in a lack of awareness of the consequences of FGM. This lack of knowledge quite often leads to situations in which victims suffer serious mental and physical consequences, sometimes for a lifetime” Governor Touray starkly added.

The officer commanding the Laminkoto barracks Lieutenant Faburama Njie spoke about the importance of the training targeting soldiers as an important group who could take the fight to their local communities and help change the perception of their relatives who my still hold fast to the practice.  He was categorical in his condemnation of FGM, describing it as retrogressive.

Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of Gamcotrap explained that her organization has been working in The Gambia for over thirty years in order to stop the circumcision of women and girls. According to her, Gamcotrap’s approach is to create awareness of the FGM in areas of the country rarely ventured by anti-FGM activists to with their campaign. She said by conducting highly interactive sessions with soldiers and other members of society, they hope to reach a wide audience whose contribution to combating the phenomenon is an imperative.

“The World Health Organization has realized that FGM normally affects women during child birth…since then Gamcotrap was proposed in The Gambia in 1984 in partnership with the Women's Bureau. FGM is a traditional that is deeply rooted in some cultures, observed in twenty-eight African countries and the middle east” Dr. Touray explained adding that the presence of Governor Touray and a retinue of security officers for the workshop spoke volumes about their commitment to the welfare of the communities the have been mandated to protect.

Amie Bojang-Sissoho, the coordinator of Gamcotrap’s Information Education and Communication program saw FGM as suggesting a fundamental discrimination against a segment of society. She added: “for the purpose of present conventions, the term discrimination against women shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of impairing or nullifying the recognition of fundamental freedoms in the political, economic social, cultural, civil or any other field”.

Mrs. Bojang-Sissoho said her organization would remain true to its commitment on FGM but admonished soldiers and members of their immediate environs that they should play a part in the campaign to make it a thing of the past.

Omar Dibba, Gamcotrap’s youth project coordinator called for all sectors of society to  respect and ensure the rights set forth in international conventions protecting the rights of each children against discrimination and other practices which may be injurious to their mental and psychological wellbeing