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Monday, February 28, 2011

Salima: born whole and healthy

February 28, 2011
United Nations Mission in Sudan

In a society where the gross majority of women are forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) during childhood, being uncircumcised often results in ostracism.

Aiming to counter stigmatization by creating a positive term to replace one sounding like a curse, the Salima campaign was initiated in Sudan by the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) with UNICEF support.

The campaign – incorporating clearly identifiable, vivid colours in its messaging – pursues a change in society’s stance towards the harmful practice.

Salima means whole, healthy and intact, said Amira Azhari, coordinator of the national program for the abolition of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) at NCCW in Khartoum.

The campaign uses radio spots, community discussions and hundreds of community members signing a tarqa (traditional cloth) to abandon the practice. The goal is to reform a long-ingrained notion that an uncircumcised woman is unclean and worthless.

Calling someone “ya wad el ghalfa” or “you son of an uncut woman” is a harsh insult in Sudan, where according to the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey, 69.4 per cent of the country’s female population, or almost seven women out of 10, are subjected to FGM.

“It’s a big deal in our communities … FGM is about being a virgin,” said singer Abir Ali at a Khartoum conference on reconstructive surgery for women suffering from detrimental health effects of the most severe form of FGM, called infibulation.

Ms. Ali was donning a Salima-coloured scarf as a campaign ambassador, one of 10 prominent Sudanese chosen to engage the public in discussions about the practice through their work and appearances, and promote its abandonment.

One reason why the practice continues is a traditional conviction that a circumcised woman will remain a virgin and after marriage be faithful to her husband. Basically, it is control over a woman’s sexual desire, noted Ms. Azhari.

She mentioned other reasons, including unfounded beliefs that FGM results in cleanliness and good health, and that the practice is required by Islam.

Some religious leaders, however, argue that no proof can be found for this requirement in the Quran or in hadith, which are interpretations of the words and deeds of Prophet Mohammed.

“Female genital mutilation used to be practiced during pharaonic times more than 3,000 years ago,” observed Ahlam Ali Hassan, professor of Islamic studies at Omdurman Islamic University, adding that FGM stemmed from long before the spread of Islam.

Awareness raising was key in abolishing genital mutilation, Ms. Hassan remarked, adding that imams and religious leaders carried a great role in informing people about its harmful health and social effects.

Educating midwives, who are often also circumcisers, contributes greatly to the cause. They are leaders of rural women, said Ms. Azhari, and having midwives lead discussions about abandoning the practice is as effective as having a Sheikh support the campaign.

Many of them, however, uphold the custom for financial reasons, as FGM practitioners generally make at least 100 Sudanese pounds ($39) plus in-kind gifts for each circumcision. Encouraging midwives to discontinue the practice, Khartoum State Governor Dr. Abdelrahman Alkhidir initiated job placement of 500 midwives in the state’s healthcare institutions last year, according to Ms. Azhari.

The child welfare council began on an ambitious path in 2008 by drafting a national strategy to combat FGM. The strategy, building on six modules – including health, media, law and religion – aims to eradicate the practice in Sudan over the next 10 years or the course of a generation.

However, most Sudanese women still view the issue as private and tend to remain silent.

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation refers to procedures involving partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, generally performed in Sudan when a girl is between 8 and 12 years old. The process is often carried out without hygienic tools, thus contributing to infections and the spread of diseases, including hepatitis and HIV.

Besides the psychological trauma it causes, FGM can lead to a wide array of ailments, including excessive bleeding, chronic urinary tract obstruction/bladder stones, urinary incontinence, infertility, painful menstruation, obstructed labour and increased risk of bleeding and infection during childbirth. (Source: UNICEF)

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Effectiveness of Public Declarations

February 14, 2011- February 21, 2011
INTACT Network Online Discussion Forum
Topic: “Public declarations: How effective are they in mobilizing communities against FGM/C?”

The key points and lessons learned from this discussion are:

  • Public declarations are a useful tool to accelerate abandonment of FGM. They create a sense of collectiveness and togetherness which empowers individuals to publicly declare that they have abandoned FGM and encourages others to follow.
  • The timing of making public declarations is crucial. When PDs are made after enough people (men, women, girls, community leaders) have decided to abandon FGM, the community abandonment would be stable. Public declarations by community leaders or excisors alone are often not taken seriously by the community.
  • Public declarations are more likely to be respected if they come as a result of a consensus building process that includes awareness raising, dialog, human rights education, economic and community empowerment. To minimize recidivism, PDs should be accompanied by other strategies like community development, media involvement and political support to create an enabling environment.
  • Public declarations are not an end but a beginning of more open discussion about FGM and a milestone that signifies readiness for change.
To view the full discussion click here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

“Health professionals essential in efforts to stop Female Genital Mutilation” – declares DPS Health

February 24, 2011
Today: The Gambia
Neneh Galleh Barry

Mr. Omar Sey, the deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has said that female genital mutilation remains a public health concern which beggars the decisive involvement of all health professionals if the crusade against it was to succeed. Mr. Sey who was speaking at a press conference held at the School of Medicine in Banjul exhorted health connoisseurs to play a crucial role in the fight to free the country's women and girls from the pangs of circumcision which leaves severe health complications for victims who sometimes suffer for a lifetime. He said since health workers are in direct contact with the people affected, it behooves them to work in concert with anti-FGM activists to banish this persistent scourge in Gambian communities across the country.

According to the DPS however the capacity of health professionals needs to be enhanced through learning and teaching materials before their role can be rendered effective. He said as part of the process of building their capacities, health personnel should be adequately sensitized on the complications and management of FGM and instead join in advocating for an initiation rite without the involvement of literally cutting the clitoris of women and girls, a cause which he said was being championed by the WGK. He further added that the partnership between different stakeholders of which health practitioners are an integral part should be intensified.

He further said that The Gambia government being conscious of its role in national development is at all times encouraging partners in their service delivery and the Wassu Gambia Kafo (WGK) was no exception.

He described a WGK donation of items to the school as a significant milestone in the drive to enhance the capacity of students and institutions in The Gambia under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, adding that this was not the first time that the WGK was involved in such a noble gesture.

“WGK as an international NGO operating in The Gambia and Spain and has been fulfilling its commitment which has been recognized by the government through my ministry. The organization is committed to preventing FGM in The Gambia through the training of health professionals and students throughout the country. This has been made possible through the support of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Statistics from the WHO have shown that, more than 130 million women in the world have endured some kind of FGM practice and suffered untold consequences. It is also estimated that each year, over 3 million girls are at risk of being subjected to this harmful practice, which has strong ancestral roots in 28 sub-Saharan African countries where Gambia is no exception. UNICEF survey in The Gambia has shown that 78 percent of girls and women undergo the practice. This prevalence is driven by deep-seated traditional beliefs, rewards and is perceived to be a religious injunction in a predominantly Muslim country” Mr. Sey explained.

He concluded by thanking the board of directors, management and the entire staff of the Wassu Gambia Kafo for the invaluable contribution to the ministry.

For her part, Adriana Kaplan, the executive director of the WGK said applied research creates new space for university cooperation for development, a fact which she said persuaded them to re-evaluate more traditional practices and evaluate challenges confronting social actors in situations that are sometimes extraordinary and extreme. She said the FGM phenomenon questions their rhetoric and ethical commitment.

She said the role of universities nowadays is to form and shape common opinion about tendencies such as FGM which contribute to hindering the course of development in third world countries such as The Gambia where the practice is still deep-seated. Mrs. Kaplan held that economic growth which takes into account such challenges have a better chance of ensuring the quality of life for a given people.

“University cooperation for development implies knowledge transfer and north-south cooperation to create the necessary conditions for universities in the south to integrate themselves into the international circuit of research and development” she pointed out, adding that building capacities in the field and providing infrastructures are necessary to achieve this goal.

She said since 2007 WGK has been donating important learning materials such as books and laboratory equipment and creating and maintaining a computer lab that has been in operation since 2008.

“Today, we take a step forward donating a laptop and a projector. We know that providing infrastructures is an essential condition in this process, but it is not enough. Building capacities is also crucial, not only at university but also within populations, enabling their empowerment and positions as main architects of their own development” she pointed out.

She went further to say that with this critical approach on university cooperation for development that was started in 1987, the “Translational Observatory of Applied Research to New Strategies for the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting” was created in 2008. She said its goal is to implement a comprehensive strategy to address the problem through WGK in The Gambia, and GIPE/PTP in Spain. She said this was possible through a research group from the autonomous University of Barcelona.

“What once was local has now become global” she indicated, adding that establishing ties between immigrant communities and their societies of origin have become necessary in the pursuit of development.

Mrs. Kaplan reaffirmed the WGK's commitment to cooperation for development assuming that sustainable and ethical work is carried out side by side with local institutions, based on understanding and support, and not on compromising their functions.

“The WGK also understand that our role is to transfer knowledge, whose final outcome would be the creation of development alternatives for populations to take advantage of” she posited.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Campaign Against Female Circumcision Intensifies in Ethiopia

February 18, 2011
Phillip Barea

Addis Ababa, February 18, 2011 ( -- In recent months local and national initiatives have shown a clear intensification of the struggle against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision.

The ancient practice of removing the outer female genitalia and “sewing” the vaginal opening shut has long existed in the region under the pretext of cleanliness and religious piety.

After years of United Nations and international NGO advocacy, recent “homegrown” campaigns have signaled a local increase in the struggle to eliminate the practice in Ethiopia. For example, recent Ethiopian Television programs have targeted the practice by assembling both religious scholars and traditional leaders to advocate against FGM.

Afar Regional Action

 Most recently, two regions within Afar State have increased both the legal and social fight against this practice. Officials in Amibara and Awash-Fentale districts have outlawed female genital mutilation, and further expressed their concern that the practice causes serious health problems to women and is against their culture.

Fatuma Ali, Head of Women's Affairs for Amibara Distric, issued a statement saying that: “We are very happy to declare the abandonment of this horrible act on women…We would like to thank the elders, our community and all our partners [for their support]”.

She further added that their commitment does not end there, and: "This is like the rebirth of Afar pastoralist women…We will fight until we secure 100 percent abandonment of the practice from our region”.

External Policy Advocacy

Just this month, two United Nations officials issued statements advocating for the eradication of female genital mutilation. Anthony Lake, Director of the UN Children's Fund; and Babatunde Osotimehin, Director of the UN Population Fund, declared that: “the practice violates human rights and endangers the health of the women affected”.

European Union officials have also recently reinvigorated their advocacy against FGM. Catherine Ashton, who leads the EU´s foreign policy sector, told the press that FGM is an "exceptionally brutal crime"; and she confirmed her determination to advocate for its elimination in Africa.

Religion and Tradition

 Many advocates in favor of maintaining the practice in Ethiopia claim that it stems from their culture and their religion. This perspective is especially prevalent in the Afar and Somali communities. They claim that FGM is mandated by Islam; however, many Muslim scholars and leaders have disputed and rejected such a claim.

For example, in a recent television interview one Somali Sultan (traditional clan leader) from the Somali region of Ethiopia publicly declared that he believes FGM to be an unhealthy cultural practice, against Islam, and that it should be stopped.

Ethiopian Television also recently broadcast an anti-FGM show where religious scholars from the various religious communities in Ethiopia discussed the issue from a religious perspective and concluded that there is no religious mandate for the practice and that it is unacceptable.

Scholars and leaders in many Muslim states have also issued, or are preparing to issue, a Fatwa (Islamic legal ruling) against Female Genital Mutilation. Most recently, for example, Muslim scholars and leaders in Mauritania issued a fatwa against FGM.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Female Circumcision -- 90 Percent of Childbearing Women in Egypt?

February 11, 2011
The Huffington Post
Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS - The good news is that female circumcision -- also known as female genital mutilation -- has decreased in a number of nations. The bad news is that the figures are still shocking after years of campaigns.

The practice of cutting into female organs is prevalent in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and south Asia as well as among migrant families in Europe and the United States. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is usually carried out between infancy and 15 years of age to keep women "pure," marriageable and unable to enjoy sex. Consequences include severe bleeding, childbirth complications, and of course pain.

The latest figures, released by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), show that over 6,000 communities have chosen to abandon the practice in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Somalia.

But... there is always a but...

In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80 percent to 74 percent, in Kenya from 32 percent to 27 percent, and in Egypt from 97 percent to 91 percent, according to Nfissatou Diop, coordinator of the program. The prevalence rate is based on a representative sample, not a door-to-door census.

In other words, this means that 91 percent of Egyptian females aged 15-49 years old may have been circumcised, most of them when they were young and could not protect themselves. The surveys are conducted by the U.S.-based Macro International every 5-6 years.

So, does that mean that most of the spirited young woman demonstrators and bloggers we have seen on TV have lost control over their bodies? Or do they belong to the lucky 10 percent?

The practice is outlawed in Egypt although hardly anyone has been prosecuted. The now-former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, called female circumcision "a flagrant example of continued physical and psychological violence against children which must stop." Last May 1, she appeared at Aswan City alongside local officials to declare the province free of it. Hopefully the ouster of the Mubarak family will not result in a backlash on this issue.

Three million girls face FGM/C every year in Africa and worldwide, and up to 140 million women and girls have already undergone the practice, the UN agencies report.

Among the nations practicing female circumcision are 28 countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Iraq's Kurdistan area. The procedure has also been reported among certain populations in India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Many countries have enacted laws against FGM: 19 in Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia); 11 in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Britain). And the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand also have legislation against FGM.

But enforcing them is as difficult as the Pope's ban on birth control.

Waris Dirie speaks
 One of the most famous advocates against FGM was Waris Dirie of Somalia, a model, actress and human rights activist. She has spoken and written about how her mother held her down when she was cut, without anesthesia, by a gypsy woman. Her vaginal opening was stitched closed with thorns. "Can you imagine anything worse than hearing the screams of pain of your own child?" she asks. She trekked across Somalia barefoot to escape an arranged marriage.

The International Organization for Migration advocates work among immigrants. "Traditional practices don't die when a migrant's boat or plane journey ends. With its partners, IOM is committed to eliminating FGM within a generation. However, this will only happen if practicing migrant communities are fully included in efforts to end FGM," said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

Many religious leaders, both Muslims and Christians, say the practice is not related to religion but has been a part of tradition for hundreds if not thousands of years. But a World Health Organization-funded study a year ago found that there are contradictory messages from religious scholars and sheiks. The nagging question is how mothers and fathers can continue the painful practice, generation after generation.

Incontinence and maternal mortality are among the health hazards of female circumcision. Yet the new U.S. Congress, in an apparent fixation on practices below the waist, is eager to cut any funds to Planned Parenthood and its reproductive health programs. No doubt UNFPA will be next as it was in the Bush administration.

The argument is denouncing any mention of abortion, although that is a rare discussion in developing nations. Abstinence is frequently advocated rather than birth control. Yet UNFPA estimates that 215 million women in the developing world want to delay or avoid pregnancy but have no access to contraception. For circumcised women, the choice of whether to have another child is an especially poignant question.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top UN officials call for abolishing female genital mutilation

February 6, 2011
UN News Centre

Stressing that all girls deserve to grow up free from harmful practices that endanger their well-being, United Nations officials on Sunday called for abolishing the practice of female genital mutilation to help millions lead healthier lives.

Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) 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.

Despite these risks, three million girls face FGM/C every year in Africa, and up to 140 million women and girls worldwide have already undergone the practice, which has serious immediate and long-term health effects and is a clear violation of fundamental human rights, according to the heads of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

In a joint statement to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake renewed their commitment to put an end to the harmful practice.

“We call on the global community to join us in this critical effort. Together, we can abolish FGM/C in one generation and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives,” they stated.

Over 6,000 communities in Africa, including in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Senegal, have chosen to abandon the practice of FGM/C through a joint programme set up by the two agencies three years ago, and the number is growing.

“We are working in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and have seen real results. The years of hard work are paying off with FGM/C prevalence rates decreasing,” said Nafissatou Diop, Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C.

“In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80 per cent to 74 per cent, in Kenya from 32 per cent to 27 per cent, and in Egypt from 97 per cent to 91 per cent. But there is still a lot of work to do,” added Ms. Diop.

Set up in 2008, the joint initiative encourages communities to collectively abandon FGM/C. It uses a culturally sensitive approach, including dialogue and social networking, leading to abandonment within one generation.

The programme is anchored in human rights and involves all groups within a community, including religious leaders and young girls themselves. Rather than condemn FGM/C, it encourages collective abandonment to avoid alienating those that practice it and instead bring about their voluntary renunciation.

“Social norms and cultural practices are changing, and women and men in communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls. UNFPA and UNICEF are working with partners to end this harmful practice in one generation and we believe that reaching this goal is possible,” said the UN agency chiefs.

Iraqi Kurdistan: Law Makers Learn of New Debates on FGM

February 7, 2011
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

A Kurdish Sharia Law expert has given his view on the practice of female circumcision which is currently being debated by the Kurdistan Parliament and society at large.

“According to 11 verses of the Quran, female circumcision is forbidden," said Dr. Mustafa Zalmi.

Dr. Mustafa Zalmi, a leading Kurdish Shariah law expert, has said female circumcision, known internationally by women’s advocates as female genital mutilation (FGM), is forbidden and that he is willing to face anybody who disagrees.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan’s Fatwa Committee says it is waiting for medical advice regarding FGM, so it can make its own decision on the controversial issue.

“Anyone who would like to talk, I’m willing to debate with them regarding this matter; and I’m ready to do this face to face,” said Zalmi, former professor of religious studies at Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University, to Rudaw last week.

Zalmi, who gained his doctorate in religious studies from Cairo’s prestigious Azhar University, has recently published a book on FGM and has condemned the practice.

“According to 11 verses of the Quran, female circumcision is forbidden. FGM is not practiced in Mecca or Medina, and the Kurds have taken Islam from [the culture of] these places, so why do we have FGM in Kurdistan?” said Zalmi.

He also says in his book that victims of this practice are consequently affected by many illnesses and physical complaints, including reduction in fertility, severe pain during sexual intercourse and an increased possibility of death during childbirth.

“I have sent the book to the Kurdistan president, the Council of Ministers as well as the Kurdistan Parliament, so they can have FGM banned,” said Zalmi.

Mullah Ahmed Shafi’i, a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Fatwa Committee, supports Zalmi’s views on female circumcision.

“So far there have been a lot of different opinions on FGM from doctors, and if these views are in agreement and scientifically prove that FGM is bad for a person’s health, we will announce a fatwa against this practice,” said Shafi’i.

Furthermore, the head of the Kurdistan Doctors’ Syndicate, Dr. Hadi Naqishbandi, said the next meeting of the syndicate would discuss the practice of FGM in Kurdistan.

“We would like to talk about this issue and we would like those doctors who specialize in this field to give their views on it in terms of its effects on health,” said Naqishbandi.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Africa shows signs of winning war against female genital mutilation

February 6, 2011
The Observer
Tracy McVeigh

Senegalese urban soul and hip hop star Sister Fa is at the forefront of a campaign in 12 countries to turn young people against FGM. Photograph: Michael Mann

In Africa, if you play music in an open space, any music, then people will generally come. "It is the way to reach people, to bring them together." So says Sister Fa, a Senegalese urban soul and hip-hop star who has been lending her voice to a remarkable new drive against female circumcision in 12 of the countries worst affected by the practice across the continent.

The first report into a United Nations project that began in 2008 has shown remarkable success rates with more than 6,000 villages and communities in six countries already abandoning the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) – also known as cutting or female circumcision – with the numbers growing every month.

The change is down to a unique approach with a proper understanding of local culture, says Sister Fa, who has seen her own home town of Thionck Essyl, where she herself was "cut", abandon it altogether. Mutilation is practised in 28 African countries, where 140 million women have been subjected to the brutal practice and a further two million are at risk every year.

"We're using music because the young people are the future. They need to understand that they are not alone," Sister Fa told the Observer from Dakar, where she is on a tour called "Education Against Mutilation". Other cultural ambassadors are performing similar journeys.

"It is when you are alone, when you think: 'How can I not cut my child? She will be marginalised, pushed in a corner'," Sister Fa continued. "When the cutting ceremony is organised for the village and one girl is not there, everyone will know that she is not there, the whole village knows she is not cut. Then that girl is treated like an animal, you can't get married, you can't cook or pass water to someone for them to drink.

"So usually the NGOs come in from outside, foreigners maybe, and they try to do a demonstration and say: 'We don't want you to do this', and the people think: 'Why should we stop? This is our culture, our tradition, who are you to come here once and try to put pressure on us? This is our life, go away.' But if you reach communities and keep coming back and keep coming back, then we are finding you can change things."

It was her Austrian father-in-law who persuaded Sister Fa that it was time for her to speak out. "He said: 'It's time. It's time to break the taboo.' It wasn't easy for me. Even now, when I talk about these things in Senegal, if I am interviewed on the radio, then people will call in and not talk nicely, threats, tell me I must not talk against these things."

But African women talking to African communities about mutilation is exactly the way to change things, says Nafissatou Diop, co-ordinator for the UN project, a joint programme between the United Nations Population Fund and Unicef.

Diop said 12 years of mistakes by well-meaning NGOs had been closely examined and the lessons learned.

"We understand that what some charities were doing before was wrong," said Diop. "They were looking at the supply side and targeting those people who were doing the cutting, but taking them out of the system doesn't stop the demand, nor does outsiders going into a village and setting up a demonstration with an anatomical model of a woman's body that shocks everyone in the village, telling them their daughters will die and then you go away never to come back. It does not suffice.

"We are realising that you need to sustain what you are doing, open a dialogue, non-judgmentally, put things in local context and bring them to a voluntary abandonment of FGM. When this type of intervention is driven by and within a community, it is not seen as being a 'foreign influence'."

In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80% to 74%, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Egypt from 97% to 91%. With the help of strong voices like that of African women like Sister Fa, the ambition is to wipe out mutilation within the next generation.

"We reach the young people," said Diop. "The women, but the men too. In their head we have to make them believe they can marry a girl who is not cut. Believe me, the FGM would stop tomorrow if the men wanted it to."

In Europe, too, lessons of the programme need to be learned, say activists. Sister Fa now lives in Berlin. "Cutting is still here, a lot of women are in prison, but cutting is still here, nothing is changing," she said. "There are a lot of laws to punish people, but it's prevention we need."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Excision: breaking the taboo

February 1, 2011

UN agencies join hands to fight FGM

February 3, 2011
New Vision
Brenda Asiimwe

TWO United Nations (UN) agencies have pledged to enhance support towards fighting female genital mutilation (FGM) in Uganda.

Describing the act as violent and brutal, the International Education Fund (UNICEF) and Population Fund (UNFPA) vowed to see that the practice is eradicated.

The agencies said they have so far injected US$487,000 in the on going campaign against FGM in selected districts in eastern and north-eastern Uganda.

“FGM is a violent act that can cause permanent damage both physically and emotionally,” the agencies said in a joint press statement.

Female genital mutilation comprises the cutting of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcission surgeons.

The practice is common among the Sabiny, Pokot, and Tepeth communities; they believe it is an essential rite of passage that will enhance a girl’s chastity and chances of marriage.

Young girls are cut with crude knives in open and unsanitary conditions.

The cutting may result into prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and complications during childbirth.

Government in 2009 passed a law banning female genital mutilation.

Convicted offenders face 10 years in prison, but if the girl dies during the act, those involved will get a life sentence, according to the law.

Theophane Nikyema, the UNDP resident representative, applauded the Government for passing the law, saying it had demonstrated commitment to eliminate the vice.

Last year, UNFPA and UNICEF helped to create a simpler version of the law that has been disseminated to 34 sub-counties where FGM was highly practiced.

The agencies also trained 500 local law enforcement officials, an intervention that saw genital cutters and parents arrested.

Janet Jackson, UNFPA representative in uganda, said that their focus for this year is creating social change through community dialogue and education.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

24 Communities Abandon FGM in URR

February 3, 2011
Daily Observer
Alieu Ceesay

Twenty-four communities in the Upper River Region (URR), last Sunday abandoned the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful traditional practices, at a ceremony held at Sare Ngai Village in Wuli West, URR.

It could be recalled that on the 16th of January this year, 27 Fula communities abandoned FGM. This declaration by the Fula communities came at the end of a three-year community empowerment sensitisation programme initiated by Tostan-Unicef on the harmful effects of FGM and its related issues in our societies. The declaration, however, created a platform for people from all walks of life to witness the outstanding achievement registered by Tostan and its partners in empowering communities particularly the young ones, to get educated and subsequently free themselves from some harmful traditional practices; such as FGM and forceful marriages, among other things.

Speaking at the ceremony, Baba Jeng, regional health director for URR on behalf of the governor of URR spoke of the important role of Tostan in national development and also in the empowerment of women by educating them on human rights, good governance, and problem-solving process among other things. Jeng however called on the communities to stand by their words in abandoning FGM and early or forceful marriages.

For his part, Yaddy Nget, area manager of Family Planning Association in URR, highlighted the importance of the declaration. Bakary Tamba, Tostan country coordinator, expressed delight at seeing another large number of communities declaring their abandonment of FGM and forceful marriages. He challenged the communities to live up to their words. He said Tostan's next target would be the Sarahuleh communities, and expressed hope that they will achieve their objective.

Among several speakers at the ceremony were Sonah Marenah, women's councillor of Wuli West Ward; Adama Bah, women's group president of Sare Ngai; Kalilu Jawo, ward councillor of Baja Kunda; and Chokeh Jallow, alkalo of Sare Ngai village, who unanimously commended Tostan for transforming their lives.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Naini District Head Circumciser Declares No to FGM

January 31, 2011
Foroyaa Newspaper: The Gambia

The head female circumciser in the Niani District Na Jontang Jawneh has declared to stop practising Female Genital Mutilation. This declaration was made during a series of training workshops organised in Bakadagi Mandinka and Kuntaur Jakaba in the Naini District. The workshops organised by GAMCOTRAP were funded by UNFPA joint programme for the acceleration of the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation in one generation in Africa. Bakadagi Mandinka hosted 10 other communities in the cluster, while Jakaba hosted fifteen (15) Communities.

GAMCOTRAP was welcomed in a fan fare of Kankurang dance at Bakadajie Mandinka which hosted Circumcisers, Traditional Birth Attendants and Women Leaders from other surrounding communities in the cluster. At Jakaba participants of the reproductive age from 15 communities were reached to raise their consciousness on the effects of Female Genital Mutilation, Gender Based Violence and Rights of Women and Children amongst others.

Speaking on Islam, FGM and the rights of women and children, religious scholar Oustass Abubacarr Kanteh noted that FGM is not an obligation in Islam and parents have responsibility to protect their children from all forms of harmful practices. Oustass Kanteh further noted that Islam promotes knowledge seeking and called on parents to educate their children - girls in particular. He cautioned parents to stop early and forced marriages and take responsibility to educate their daughters as education is the key to success.

The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP Dr. Isatou Touray expressed appreciation of the leadership role Na Jontang Jawneh, head of the Circumcisers in Niani district took to publicly declare her support to support GAMCOTRAP in the campaign to stop Female Genital Mutilation - FGM and highlighted the importance of community consensus to protect girls from the practice and all other forms of Violence. The training workshops provided opportunity for communities to discuss women’s rights issues, Gender Based Violence and FGM in the context of sexual and reproductive health. Several participants gave testimonies on the issues raised during the training and contributed to the debate to promote and protect women and children’s rights.

Participants from both training programmes came to consensus to stop FGM and pledged to share the knowledge gained during the training. It was noted that gender based violence and sexuality issues were of great concern to women of reproductive age. It was courageous to hear several women share their experiences with others.

Prepared by GAMCOTRAP
January 2011