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Monday, October 24, 2011

Proposed Centre Would Address Many Aspects of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

October 21, 2011

NAIROBI --- Participants at an international conference on research, healthcare and preventive measures related to female genital mutilation/ cutting called for the creation an African Coordinating Centre for partnership, capacity building, research, and policymaking on FGM/C.

The vision, according to the proposal drafted by the University of Nairobi, is to establish a centre of excellence for African researchers to develop innovative approaches to increase and deepen the understanding on issues related to FGM/C and its elimination. It would also train leaders and for promote health care for survivors.

“Ideally, the Centre will also provide improve the skills of health providers in healthcare support services to the 140 million girls and women affected by FGM/C,” said Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of the Joint Programme on FGM/C, noting that surgical procedures are now able to repair some of the damages.

“FGM/C is an irreversible act,” noted Ms. Diop. “However there is hope today that women could be surgically repairs from the damage related to this harmful practice.” She cited research presented at the conference showing high success rates (83 per cent satisfaction) among women who had undergone this surgery.

The Centre would also provide evidence for continuous monitoring, data for evaluation of progress, capacity building and monitor policy influence of research through the collaborative efforts of many partners including UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, University of Nairobi, International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University (Belgium), Universities of Washington and Sydney, the Africa-Australia Universities Network and Worldwide Universities Network.

Shortchanging women

During the conference, Kenya’s assistant Minister for Cooperative Development, the Honourable Lina Kilimo, who hails from a community with a high prevalence of FGM/C, spoke movingly about her own experience. She was ostracized by her community for running away to escape the cut. However, her strong conviction against the practice prompted her to join politics, and from her position she continues her fight against the female cut. “This is a cruel practice that destroys a woman’s ego and self esteem,” she said.

FGM/C is a discriminatory cultural practice that effectively denies women the opportunity to participate and contribute to national development, the University of Nairobi’s vice-chancellor of Professor Joseph Magoha affirmed. This shortchanges both women and their countries, he said, adding, “There can be no sustainable development of a country without active participation of women.”

New dimensions of the problem: medicalization and globalization

While acknowledging the many initiatives at the global, regional, national and community levels towards the reduction and elimination of the practice, the conference participants agreed that there were a myriad challenges confronting these efforts, including the trend toward medicalization of the practice. While using trained medical workers and sterile instruments may eliminate some of the obvious harmful effects, it does not address the underlying violation of the rights of women and girls, participants noted.

In this regard, the recently enacted law criminalizing FGM/C in Kenya was seen as an important step towards dealing with this new threat. While acknowledging the significance of legislation, several participants noted the inadequacy of legislation alone to addressing certain cultural beliefs that perpetuate the practice. It was agreed that a multi-sectoral approach was the best way to address the issue.

A presentation prepared by the World Health Organization also clarified the fact the widespread emigration makes FGM/C a global issue. This brings up a relatively new phenomenon: the psychological effects of the procedure on immigrant populations who may find themselves stigmatized in their new environments.

To read the full article on the UNFPA website, click here