Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
By Africa News
Local and international non-governmental organizations (rights groups) have come together to fight against harmful traditional practices, a practice which is common and popular among many ethnic groups in the upper river and the central river regions of the Gambia.
Communities in these regions have now decided to have over harmful traditional practices a second thought; even though it has been part of the most controversial issues on the public debate.
Cultural and religious norms had encouraged parents to force women and children to early marriage and female Genital mutilation over the past decades.
According to the WHO, its implications on the reproductive health of women and girls are adverse and very severe. Statistics have shown that about 30 million women in Africa have been subjected to the FGM practice. Most of these women experience some form of difficulties during labour.
However, after several years of succeeding struggle to fights against harmful practices spearheaded by The Gambia Committee on harmful traditional practices (GAMCOTRAP) in collaboration with their partners, more than two hundred women circumcisers have been forced to lay down their knifes and blades.
The Wulli and Sandu development association (WASDA), the National Youth Association for Food Security (NAYAFS), both local NGOs operating in the URR joined forces with TOSTAN, an international NGO also operating in the URR to sensitize rural residents in that part of the country in order for them to discontinue some of these traditional but harmful practices that continue to wreak havoc on women, who are our mothers.
About 1500 local residents in Wulli and Sandu that were from 27 communities in Upper River Region (URR) gathered at the village of Darsilamin Sandu to publicly declare their opposition and subsequent discontinuation of FGM and early and forced marriage both of which have been part of their lives since time immemorial.
With support from UNICEF, these communities, after going through massive sensitization and theoretical classes in community-led-development projects implemented by TOSTAN are now fully aware of the dangers and problems which result from female genital mutilation and forced early marriage.
Their testimonies during the public declaration were disheartening and it carried a message of warning to those who still practice it. This has resulted in the jettisoning of harmful traditional practices and they have now been abandoned by more people in that region as the circumcisers and their supporters, including religious leaders all condemned it in the strongest possible terms.
This remarkable achievement followed another public declaration by 13 communities from both Jimara and Basse districts of the same region on 25th October, 2009 in the village of Mannneh Kunda.
Testimonies from the Manneh Kunda declaration against FGC/M and forced marriage were similar to that of the Darsilami one. The Manneh Kunda public declaration was the most pathetic scene, when a former circumciser named Mama Sengura from Basse Kaba Kama recounted how her first victim died as a result of excessive bleeding from the injured genital area.
The former circumciser who turns 62 was remorseful and regretted her involvement. Mama Segura admitted that she made her living from the practice and was set to continue but thanks to the timely intervention of TOSTAN and other partner NGOs, she has now seen the light and vows not to practice it any more.
The moral impetus to stop these unhealthy and out dated practices has now gathered momentum while practitioners have now realized the negative health implications of it and what it costs women and girls.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Kampala — Parliament last week passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, which was tabled by Kinkizi East MP Dr. Chris Baryomunsi. The law outlaws the practice which is mainly carried out in eastern Uganda among the Sabiny in Kapchorwa and Bukwo districts and the Pokot in Amudat District. New Vision asked Dr. Baryomunsi about the law...
Recently Parliament passed the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Bill. It now awaits presidential assent to become an Act of Parliament. What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
It is a procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non medical or therapeutic reasons. It is an age-old tradition sometimes referred to as female circumcision or female genital cutting. It's mainly done in the name of culture but it's a practice which dehumanises women and clearly lowers their status in society. It has no benefit at all and it's associated with many health risks.
What is its origin?
It is not clearly known, but available literature traces FGM to have started in Egypt. It is suspected that Egyptian kings promoted the practice of circumcising Israeli women to make them infertile so as to reduce the population of the Israelites. This cruel practice moved across the countries because of migrations.
FGM which predates Christianity, Islam and other religions is also practised in the neighboring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and northern DRC.
Currently, over 28 countries in Africa practise FGM. It is also practised in the Middle East and Asian countries. To the western world, the practice is carried out mainly by African and Asian migrants.
In Uganda, the practice is prevalent among the Pokot, Sabiny, Tepeth, Nubians and Somali women. It is believed that these ethnic communities that practise FGM moved southwards from around Egypt centuries ago, settled in the Abyssinian area moved to Kenya and some came to Uganda.
The Sabiny, Pokot and Tepeth are all Kalenjin and are ethnic cousins to the Masai of Kenya and Tanzania. The Tepeth live on the top of mountains Moroto and Nyapak and in Kaabong District, where they are called the Teuso.
What pushed you to table the FGM Bill when the practice is not prevalent in your constituency and region?
FGM is an abuse of women's rights. It violates their rights, and actually its violence against women. As a medical doctor, I have a professional duty to save life. An MP is a national leader who must be concerned about issues even beyond his or her constituency. Torture to a woman anywhere is a concern to me. Besides, our constitution empowers us as backbench MPs to initiate legislation on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda.
Why didn't you leave it to the area MPs to push for a law? Why are you more concerned than the affected?
True, this practice is not in Kanungu but I am also affected. This is a national concern and I worked with all the political leaders, including the MPs from that area. There was no competition at all; we worked together throughout the process. They all supported the bill and it is not true that they didn't move the bill because they feared a political backlash. Actually, politicians in these areas will be safer if they discourage female genital mutilation today. The President himself has been a strong public advocate for the abandonment of this harmful practice.
What makes FGM dangerous?
FGM involves the cutting of external female genital parts and there are no benefits associated with the practice. It is done by local women who use locally made knives and sometimes sharpened stones. These cause a lot of injury and may facilitate the transmission of infections such as tetanus and HIV/AIDS. The extent of damage depends on how much tissue is cut. There are different types of FGM based on how much tissue is severed. The cruelest form is when the mutilators cut the clitoris and the vaginal lips and then stitch the genitals to leave a small orifice to allow for urine and menstrual blood. This is called infibulation or pharaonic circumcision. There are many complications that occur and include severe bleeding, shock, infections, ugly scars, urinary retention, failure to heal, maternal and child birth difficulties, permanent disability, difficulty in having sex, uncontrolled leakage of urine and death. Others include feelings of anxiety, fear, bitterness and betrayal, panic disorders, feelings of incompleteness, loss of self esteem and difficulty with body image. The list is long. Female genital mutilation is practised to mark the transition from childhood into adulthood and is, therefore, associated with early marriages and high school drop-out rates for young girls.
So what if it is stopped?
Because it involves the inflicting of injuries and harm on women, if it is stopped, women will no longer be subjected to the above complications. The women will remain complete human beings. The only problem is the social pressure. Uncircumcised women used not to be allowed to milk cows, climb the granary or clear cow dung from the kraal. This is being abandoned now and we have also outlawed this discrimination and stigmatisation.
In Uganda, we have a set of laws that have not been implemented for years. What strategies are you going to employ to ensure that the Anti-FGM law will be implemented?
The implementation and enforcement of laws is the responsibility of the executive arm of the government. But in this particular case, the law was demanded by the communities where FGM is practised and, therefore, implementation and enforcement will be easy since the communities appreciate the law. The Government is committed to ensuring that FGM becomes history. This financial year sh200m was allocated for the campaign. We hope to raise this figure in the next budget.
Many partners including UNFPA, UNICEF, the US and Dutch governments among others have been supporting the campaign and I expect them to continue. The President, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, Dora Byamukama of East African Legislative Assembly and many others are very keen on having FGM eradicated soon. We shall also organise awareness and sensitisation meetings for law enforcement agencies like the Police and the Judiciary. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is finalising an implementation plan that I hope it will be funded. My assurance is that by 2015, we shall have recorded no case of female genital mutilation in Uganda.
How soon are these trainings?
The mobilisation has been on since the early 1990s. We are continuing with the campaign. Those who think that we just passed the law without community education are wrong. This has been an ongoing campaign mainly by the REACH programme and the Sabiny Elders Association. The President, accompanied by his wife, on July 1 launched a national campaign to eradicate this practice at Amudat. Since then the Pokot are excited and have committed to abandon the practice. Recently, young girls from Amudat challenged us to give them schools since we have convinced them to abandon the practice and go to school. In addition to the sensitisation, we must provide social services to these communities.
There are women who believe that to prove they are adults, they must be circumcised. If they don't get someone to circumcise them, they do it themselves. How will you ensure that the practice is completely wiped out when others can do it in their houses?
Legislation cannot stop the practice overnight, but it is part of the social engineering process. Implementation and enforcement of the law will go alongside continued education and sensitisation of the communities. Since early 1990s the practice has been going down.Actually, most Sabiny young girls have abandoned the practice. Two decades ago, thousands were being cut annually but now it's about 400 Sabiny girls who face the knife yearly. As we continue to educate people, women and girls will abandon it. Besides this, the law clearly states that carrying out FGM on oneself is criminal and attracts a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years. We think this is deterrent enough to dissuade the young girls and women from carrying out FGM on themselves Is the community ready to receive the FGM law?
It took a long time to have this law in place because the Government and other agencies first invested in community advocacy and education on the dangers of FGM. The affected communities have over time understood that the practice has no benefits at all. There have been demands from the local communities, especially among the Sabiny for a national law prohibiting FGM and that is how I came in to prepare and table the bill. I was assisted by LAW Uganda, a civil society organisation headed by Byamukama. All sub-counties in Kapchorwa have passed by-laws prohibiting it and Kapachorwa District Council passed an ordinance also prohibiting it. This shows that the communities fully understand the need to abandon the practice, and the legislation will support this process.
Is there a strategy to popularise the anti-FGM law?
There is already a national alliance of organisations and institutions that are spearheading campaigns against FGM and I will continue supporting their work. Like I pointed out, a national implementation plan is being finalised by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. We shall make sure that we allocate sufficient resources to implement the plan. I am also hopeful that partners will support these efforts. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for instance has consistently supported the campaigns since the late 1980s.
Does the law provide for an education campaign?
The law and other existing laws, including the Constitution put an obligation on the State to educate the people about the dangers of harmful practices such as FGM. It is good that there are other partners involved. By 2015, female genial mutilation will be no more in Uganda.
For any campaign to succeed there must be incentives to entice people embrace the campaign. Is there any such in regard to FGM?
As I said, there have been advocacy campaigns going on. Through the UNFPA supported programmes, health centres were built to help women. There have also been efforts to encourage and promote the girl child education and special scholarships have been given to the Sabiny by the Government. The infrastructure has been improved like the Mbale-Kapchorwa road which is one of the best. The road to Bukwa is going to be tarmacked soon. The President has also pledged to have girls boarding secondary schools constructed in each of the communities. There is also need to find alternative sources of income for the mutilators who abandon the practice as it is a lucrative business for them.
Away, from FGM as the year ends how do you rate the performance of Parliament in 2009?
In my view, Parliament has performed very well. It has been very vibrant. We have passed many bills and many motions, although we still have a challenge of appreciating the multiparty dispensation. But I hope things will improve as we move on.
What about your party's performance for this year?
The attendance of MPs in both plenary and committee has greatly, deteriorated. Do we expect any business in Parliament next year given the fact that we are nearing the 2011 elections?
Parliament will not close, but there will be a challenge of mobilising members to attend. The party whips have to work very hard. The main problem is that even though we are under multiparty politics, the parties are not doing much to support their members at constituency level. The parties want to own us without doing much to strengthen us at constituency level. So the members have to be in their constituencies so as to be voted into Parliament again. In countries where multiparty politics is developed, the parties have a duty to explain to the constituents how their MPs are performing and this would reduce pressure on individual MPs. The unfortunate bit is that in Uganda, we find some parties fighting their own MPs.
But critics say your party has not performed well. Are you sure your party will be voted into power again?
The opposition has failed to provide alternative policies and programmes that can convince the public that their ideology is superior to that of the NRM. Even in Parliament, the opposition has failed to make a mark. So the NRM remains the only party that can hold Ugandans together and ensure sustainable development and prosperity.
As an MP how do you plan to come back in 2011?
I believe I have been a performing MP, both at national and constituency level. I have lobbied and brought development programmes to Kinkizi East constituency and Kanungu District.
During my tenure, I have lobbied for many programmes such as the extension of electricity to Kanungu, Rugyeyo and Kambuga. I have lobbied for construction of major bridges at Birara and Hamurwa, the tarmacking of Rukungiri-Kanungu road which is due next year, and so many others. I have also used the Constituency Development Fund and my other earnings to promote poultry, food security interventions, promoted tea growing, supported churches, mosques, women and youth groups and groups of people with disability.
The NRM is locked in the mismanagement and misappropriation of CHOGM funds. How is the party handling it?
NRM policy is zero tolerance to corruption. Those who misappropriated CHOGM funds did so as individuals and must answer individually. I hope the NRM leadership won't come out to support those who will be implicated. The "Temangalo effect" should not apply again. We should implement the talk of corruption even when it comes to our own.
How is the party handling conflict within the party?
This is a major challenge facing NRM as a party. The problem is that the top leaders of the party are sometimes the ones involved in conflicts, intrigue, and blackmail and backstabbing of fellow party leaders and members. This to me has hampered the process of instilling discipline among the members. However, disciplinary committees have now been constituted at various levels including at district level. As we strengthen the party structures, I do hope these committees will begin to function.
Monday, December 28, 2009
By Amat Jeng Alieu Jamanka - Today, The Gambia Quality Newspaper
Communities in the Upper River Region continue to abandon harmful traditional practices, as 24 more Mandinka communities have ‘dropped the knife’ at a ceremony held in Tumana-Kantora, URR.
The event, organized by TOSTAN saw the Sotuma Kantora steering committee of the Tumana-Kantora zone in URR declare that they now realize and understand that some of their traditional practices and customs are inimical to the health and well being of women and girls.
Reading the declaration on behalf of the steering committee, Abdourahman Fatty, a member of the committee, said most of the communities have participated in the joint programme of UNICEF-TOSTAN and The Gambia government’s community empowerment programme.
He said over 20 communities in Basse-Jimara, Tumana and Kantora respectively; including the adopted ones, have united to openly and unconditionally put a stop to FGM and child/forced marriage. This declaration, he added, does not come as a coincidence, but as a result of a comprehensive three year holistic community programme spearheaded by TOSTAN facilitators.
This programme includes social mobilization and sensitization activities by the team, the communities and the Community Management Committee (CMC) members, on issues affecting health and the personal well being of women and girls.
“After evaluating both the positive and negative effects of the practices, often with careful observations, discussion and dialogue with the community members, and local and influential leaders, the 24 communities have decided to openly and willingly declare the abandonment of harmful cultural practices of female genital cutting, and child and forced marriage,” he said.
Speaking further, Fatty acknowledged that TOSTAN’s Community Empowerment Project (CEP) is not only focusing on female genital cutting, but the programme takes a holistic approach to community led sustainable development, covering issues such as democracy, good governance, human rights, problem solving as well as health and hygiene and literacy.
He maintained that the regular cleansing exercise, initiated by the participating communities and their adopted villages, is a step in the right direction which consolidates the initiatives of the President in ensuring that people live in a clean environment.
He also acknowledged the active participation of all stakeholders, whose moral support has contributed to the success of the programmes TOSTAN has been embarking on.
While he said sustainability is the ultimate goal of the project and programmes, he also added that the CMC of Sotuma has had its capacity bolstered by TOSTAN and therefore is committed in sustaining the benefits already derived from the joint project of UNICEF-TOSTAN and GoTG.
He finally called on other CMC, VDCs, CSOs and all other development partners to collaborate in order to ensure that projects and programmes are sustained by themselves after any direct intervention.
In his statement, Bakary Tamba TOSTAN country coordinator, hailed the women of URR for their commitment and passion. He said TOSTAN is employing a bottom-up approach with holistic and polite measures to sensitise the community members whose participation in the programme has ensured its success.
According to Tamba, TOSTAN is not applying any coercive force to make women abandon FGM, but has put forward tangible reasons for their abandonment.
Mawdo Susso, Regional Youth Chairman, spoke about the need to improve livelihoods, especially at the local level. He praised TOSTAN for creating employment for youth in The Gambia and appealed to the Government and UNICEF to continue their support for TOSTAN, as he said the NGO has created employment for the good of young men and women in the region and The Gambia at large. He noted that these employment opportunities are also in line with the objectives of the PRSP.
Mba Sawaneh of Kantora, speaking on behalf of the district head, expressed delight at the unique approach TOSTAN is employing. He cited an example of a prominent circumciser who decided to reject the practice due to the intensive training she received from TOSTAN.
Bolong Sano, the alkalo of Simoto prayed for the sustainability of the project. He described TOSTAN as an integral part of their livelihoods.
Hulay Bah, an ex-prominent circumciser condemned the practice of FGM/C, early/forced marriage. She said ever since she was a mature girl she had been practicing FGM but thanks to the timely intervention of TOSTAN and its partners, which she said had made her aware of the drawbacks of the practice, she decided to cease and desist from doing it.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The police face growing criticism for failing to prosecute a single person for carrying out FGM in 25 years; new legislation from 2003 which prohibits taking a girl overseas for FGM has also failed to secure a conviction.
Experts say the lack of convictions, combined with the Government's failure to invest enough money in education and prevention strategies, mean the practice continues to thrive. Knowledge of the health risks and of the legislation remains patchy among practising communities, while beliefs about the supposed benefits for girls remain firm, according to research by the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (Forward).
As a result, specialist doctors and midwives are struggling to cope with increasing numbers of women suffering from long-term health problems, including complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Campaigners are urging ministers to take co-ordinated steps to work with communities here and overseas to change deep-seated cultural attitudes and stamp out this extreme form of violence against women.
The author and life peer Ruth Rendell, who has campaigned against FGM for 10 years, said: "When I helped take the Bill through Parliament seven years ago, I was very hopeful that we'd get convictions and that would then act as a deterrent for other people. But that has never happened and my heart bleeds for these girls. This mutilation is forever; nothing can be done to restore the clitoris, and that is just very sad for them. I have repeatedly asked questions of ministers from all departments about why there has never been a prosecution and why we still do not have a register of cases. But while they are always very sympathetic, nothing ever seems to get done. Teachers must not be squeamish and must talk to their girls so we can try and prevent it from happening."
FGM is classified into four types, of varying severity; type 3 is the most mutilating and involves total removal of the clitoris, labia and a narrowing of the whole vagina.
An estimated 70,000 women living in the UK have undergone FGM, and 20,000 girls remain at risk, according to Forward. The practice is common in 28 African countries, including Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria, as well as some Middle Eastern and Asian countries such as Malaysia and Yemen. It is generally considered to be an essential rite of passage to suppress sexual pleasure, preserve girls' purity and cleanliness, and is necessary for marriage in many communities even now. It has no religious significance.
The most common age for the procedure is between eight and 11 but it can be carried out just after birth or just before marriage. It carries the risk of death from bleeding or tetanus, and long-term problems include urinary incontinence, recurrent infections and chronic pain. Reversal procedures are necessary in order to avoid major problems for a woman and baby during childbirth.
In the UK, some women have to travel hundreds of miles to one of 15 specialist clinics because services and training are so patchy. There are no specialist clinics at all in Scotland, or Wales, and student doctors, midwives and social workers are not routinely taught to recognise or deal with FGM.
A DVD, paid for by Baroness Rendell, which shows health workers how to reverse FGM will be launched in January. She hopes the next generation of health professionals will be better equipped to help affected women, many of whom suffer from long-term psychological effects such as flashbacks, anxiety and nightmares.
Amina, 55, originally from Somalia, underwent type 3 FGM, with no anaesthetic, when she was 11. One of the lucky ones, she suffered no long-term physical health problems but still carries psychological scars.
She has been vilified by practising communities for campaigning against FGM and for refusing to allow four of her daughters to be mutilated; the fifth suffered the procedure while in the care of her grandmother. The government funding that allowed Amina to work with families in Yorkshire, going door to door, to schools and community centres, talking about legal and health risks, ran out in March.
The Somali model Waris Dirie was mutilated at the age of five. She set up the Waris Dirie Foundation in 2002 to help eradicate FGM. She said: "I am worried about the situation in Europe and the US, as FGM seems to be on the rise in these places. In the 21st century, a crime this cruel should not be accepted in a society as developed as England. No one can undo the trauma that is caused by this horrible crime; it stays in your head for ever. So what we should focus on is that there won't be another victim."
Jackie Mathers, a nurse from the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, said: "These families do not do this out of spite or hatred; they believe this will give their daughters the best opportunities in life. We would like a conviction, not against the parents, but against a cutter, someone who makes a living from this. We have anecdotal information that the credit crunch means people can't go home, so they're getting cutters over for 'FGM parties'. It is hard for people to speak out because they are from communities that are already vilified as asylum seekers, so to stand up against their communities is to risk being ostracised. But we have to empower girls and women to address this, along with teachers, school nurses and social workers. We can't ignore it; it is mutilation."
A Home Office spokesman said: "We have appointed an FGM co-ordinator to drive forward a co-ordinated government response to this appalling crime and make recommendations for future work."
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
December 15, 2009
By Richard Musani - The New Vision
Kampala — Female circumcision, has been practiced for centuries in parts of north eastern Uganda, commonly among the Sabinys. Generally, it is a rite of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage.
It is performed by lay practitioners with little or no knowledge of human medicine.
Female circumcision can cause death or permanent health problems and severe pain.
Despite these grave risks, its practitioners look at it as an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity, and some perceive it as a religious obligation.
Last week Ugandan legislators passed a Bill on Female Genital Mutilation that seeks to criminalize the practice and subject those practicing it to 10 years of imprisonment.
While passing the Bill the legislators failed to appreciate the fact that female circumcision is an integral part of the societies that practice it.
In communities where a person's place in society is determined by lineage traced through fathers, female circumcision reduces the uncertainty surrounding paternity by discouraging or preventing women's sexual activity outside marriage.
Being a member of the Sabiny community, I have observed that the girls' are eager to be circumcised, since those who remain uncircumcised are looked down upon by the community.
In addition, the ritual is often embedded in ceremonies in which the girls are given presents and their families are honored.
It is evident, therefore, that focus should have been in the first case on sensitizing the girl-child and educational empowerment on the effects of the practice.
The strong reactions by the legislators depicting the culture of female circumcision as savage, violent and abusive of women and children is likely to make those interested in continuing the practice rebellious.
In the New Vision December 14, titled: "Stamp out female circumcision" the editorial observed that the Bill was sponsored by a private member Chris Baryomunsi, the Kinkizi East MP. It was not sponsored by members of the affected areas who are conscious of their political future once open on this traditionally sensitive matter.
This raises questions on the enforcement of the law once the President assents to it. I believe the Government should re-focus and partner with international organisations working against the practice to support local activist groups with funding. They should also train and provide technical expertise to activist groups.
The girl child in the affected areas should be empowered and lured by educational scholarships to attain academic papers and learn the detrimental effects of the practise.
I recently learnt that the President provided some university scholarships to tertiary going girls in Kapchorwa and Bukwo, this was a positive initiative and should be continued. Gradually, the practice will be eradicated.
The writer is a strategic management analyst and a member of the Sabiny community
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
December 14, 2009
By Denise Shepherd-Johnson
NAIROBI, Kenya, 14 December 2009 – Last month, hundreds of men, women and children gathered in a Somali stadium in the early morning heat to witness a historic declaration: the collective abandonment of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) by representatives from 20 communities.
The event, attended and lauded by women’s activists, religious leaders and local government officials, was the culmination of over three years’ work by the international non-governmental organization Tostan and its local partner, the Somaliland Culture and Sports Association (SOCSA).
As representatives of each of the 20 communities stepped forward to endorse the Declaration, UNICEF Representative in Somalia Rozanne Chorlton called the event “truly momentous”.
Somalia has one of the highest prevalence rates of FGM/C in the world - more than 98 per cent of women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone the process.
By promoting the development of critical thinking and decision-making skills, the UNICEF-supported Tostan programme empowers communities to prioritize public issues and resolve problems together
|© UNICEF Somalia/2009/ Shepherd-Johnson|
|Yurub (centre) has pledged never to circumcise her youngest daughters, age three and four.|
In this way, 14 communities that initially participated in the programme influenced six more villages to join them in making the declaration of FGM/C abandonment.
"These communities, as true agents of change, have talked to their neighbours, shared experiences and made an informed decision to uphold the rights of children and women. Today’s declaration is a result of that consensus. UNICEF will continue to support initiatives that put communities at the centre of development and social change,” said Ms. Chorlton during her address to the gathering.
A similar public declaration in October 2009 saw 14 communities from northeast Somalia also collectively proclaim their abandonment of FGM/C. Commitment from families
Even without the official declaration, the Tostan programme has been changing Somali lives.
“I was already active in my community and became a community management committee member in my village of Daami,” said Yurub, a 40-year-old mother of four girls, who has already pledged never to circumcise her youngest daughters. “I realized through the Tostan programme that I should no longer cut my girls. Some women have challenged me but my husband supports and encourages me. I am confident in my decision and I am committed to it.”
With funding from the Swiss Committee for UNICEF, the Tostan community empowerment programme was conducted successfully in 28 communities in northwest and northeast Somalia and will expand to additional communities in 2010.
Monday, December 14, 2009
By Thomas v. der Osten-Sacken and Ines Laufer
WADI e.V. and numerous courageous Kurdish men and women with whom they co-operate make it impossible to overlook any longer the suffering of girls and women in Middle East because of Female Genital Mutilation. In Feburary 2010, WADI e.V. will present their full study on genital mutilations in Iraq, together with Human Rights Watch. At www.stopfgmkurdistan.org you find more detailed information about FGM in Iraq. It’s worth to have a look!
At the current Human Rights-Festival “Thishumanworld” in Vienna, there are two documentaries presented about Female Genital Mutilation in Iraq and Iran: “Handful of Ash” by Nabaz Ahmed, co-produced by WADI, about FGM in Iraq, a film that has been presented in Germany last year already,http://www.thishumanworld.com/jart/prj3/thw/main.jart?rel=de&reserve-mode=active&content-id=1257943646642&show_prdouktion=1257943655162 and “In the Name of tradition” about FGM in Iran, by Kameel Ahmady, where about 70% of girls become victims of that crime: http://www.thishumanworld.com/jart/prj3/thw/main.jart?rel=de&reserve-mode=active&content-id=1257943646642&show_prdouktion=1258524313824www.sponsoredgirl.com – campaign at the Kurdish Newspaper “REWAN” There’s need of much more public awareness and outspeaking and most important: acting to stop these crimes wherever they are being committed. The children need to be protected first of all. In Africa. In Iraq. In Iran. In Europe and in the United States. And we all have our opportunities to take and choices to make to help stamping out this violence for ever.
For example Zheinab her eldest daughter, now ten, was circumcised two years ago, when she was still unaware of FGC's long-term medical consequences. Her younger girls have not been subjected to the same agony and trauma since. Taking the bold decision not to circumcise her two other daughters, even though uncircumcised girls and their families are frequently stigmatised by the larger community, was championed by Zheinab's husband.
Twenty-two-year-old Fatima also discontinued the prevalent tradition after hearing radio programmes on FGC and understanding Islam's position on the issue. An increased awareness of the health and social risks involved urged her not to circumcise her daughters. In addition, the effective messages in the features aired convinced her to undergo training on FGC and spread the knowledge in her community, in an attempt to help eradicate the practice.
Zheinab and Fatima are amongst many other women in the refugee camps who have provoked debate, discussion and organic change within their communities on a significant topic such as FGC. This is the key to the elimination of this custom.
A tremendous outcome of the Somali Women's Learning Project, an innovative, high impact, three-year communications initiative of the Freeplay Foundation and its partners, the United High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), the Pastoralist Journalist Network (PAJAN) and CARE, more than 7,500 women and girls living in Garissa district have been informed, educated and empowered to make life-changing decisions through 500 Lifeline radios. Additionally, the radios are reaching thousands more men and children, as the women in their communities gain the knowledge, confidence and power to share the information they learn and take brave steps to improve their lives.
UNHCR approached the Freeplay Foundation a few years ago, after a survey indicated that only one in 500 refugees had access to radio.
Friday, December 11, 2009
December 10, 2009
Anyone convicted of the practice, which involves cutting off a girl's clitoris, will face 10 years in jail, or a life sentence if a victim dies.
The BBC's Joshua Mmali in Uganda says it is not officially condoned but is still practised in several rural areas.
Rights groups welcomed the move, but urged awareness campaigns to ensure the centuries-old practice stops.
Genital mutilation is seen in some countries as a way to ensure virginity and to make a woman suitable for marriage.
Our reporter says it is still practised by the Sabiny, some Karamojong sub-groups and the Pokot in eastern Uganda and the Nubi people of West Nile.
MP Alice Alaso said the move was "a very significant achievement".
"It's a very bad practice. It's cruel, it traumatises people, it's led children to drop out of school, it's a health hazard," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.
"This is a warning signal - whoever dares practice female genital mutilation will be subject to the law."
Another MP, Lulume Bayiga, said the law would liberate both men and women - who often face being ostracised for shunning the custom.
"Women will start for the first time to enjoy sex and it's going to do away with various diseases," he told the BBC.
According to the UN, about three million girls each year in Africa are at risk of genital mutilation, with more than 91 million girls and women living with the consequences of the procedure.These include bleeding, shock, infections and a higher rate of death for new-born babies
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Fanta Camara was 5 years old when she was subjected to genital mutilation. In the course of the cutting her urethra was severely damaged, as a consequence of which she became incontinent. She had to drop out of school as other students, who could not bear the smell of her incontinence, made fun of her. In the village she spent her time washing her clothes, which were repeatedly soiled by the ceaseless flow of urine. The same community that required her, in accordance with tradition, to undergo the process of genital mutilation, shunned her as a result of the harm it caused her. Her condition, compounded by lack of education, heralded a bleak future.
Fanta’s case is not an isolated one in Mali. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced in all parts of Mali with a prevalence rate of 92% according to the country’s third Demographic and Health Survey of 2001. The practice is performed not only by traditional circumcisers but also by midwives and retired medical personnel. Three forms of FGM are practiced in Mali: the partial or total removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy), the removal of the entire clitoris and the cutting of the labia minora (excision), and the most extreme form - the removal of all external genitalia and stitching together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small vaginal opening (infibulation). The effects of FGM, which is generally done without anaesthesia, can be devastating. In Mali, it is generally performed on girls below the age of 10, with some as young as 3 months old. The cutting may have lifelong health consequences including chronic infection, psychological trauma, and severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse and childbirth. Many girls die from the cutting, usually as a result of bleeding or infection.
For Fanta there is finally good news. After doctors in Mali said they were not able to treat Fanta’s incontinence, in February 2007, Equality Now organized a medical consultation for Fanta in France, with the help of Equality Now supporters who financed her travel to Paris and made arrangements for her to see medical experts. Diagnostic tests indicated that the extent of Fanta’s injury precluded surgery without intensive post-operative care, which she would not be able to get in her village in Mali. While this news was disappointing, Fanta has surprised doctors with unusual improvement. She has responded positively to antibiotics and now has better control over her incontinence, which according to the doctors may be attributed to the strengthening of the bladder that occurs with puberty. An Equality Now supporter is also financing Fanta’s education through private tutoring, which has been organized for Fanta by the non-governmental organization Malian Association for Monitoring and Orientation on Traditional Practices (AMSOPT), one of Equality Now’s partners in this campaign. Fanta is making great progress. She is in Bamako, the capital of Mali, where she is re-integrating into society and making new friends. She has said she would like to become an anti-FGM activist to help eradicate the harmful practice.
Unfortunately it is not possible to help individually all the girls and women suffering the negative consequences of FGM, and in many cases the damage done is beyond medical repair. What is needed is a law against the practice to help prevent FGM from being inflicted. AMSOPT has worked with a total of 80 villages in the regions of Kayes, Sanankoroba, Dioila and Kangaba, of which 53 have pledged to abandon the practice. The circumcisers there are now engaging in other income-generating activities. The awareness created by these activities has culminated in the promulgation of unwritten community laws that prohibit FGM and impose sanctions on any person found carrying out or assisting in FGM. These communities are concerned, however, that their efforts will be futile in the likely event that their daughters marry into one of the many other communities that are yet to abandon the practice and would be forced to undergo genital mutilation. Also, owing to the absence of a national law against FGM, Mali serves as a safe haven for FGM practitioners from Burkina Faso, Senegal and Guinea-Conakry, who bring girls across the border and cut them in Mali to escape punishment in their own countries. AMSOPT believes that a national law against FGM must be enacted urgently in order to ensure that the life and health of thousands of women and girls are protected from the harmful effects of FGM.
In 2005 Mali ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa which in Article 5(b) requires States Parties to prohibit FGM through legislative measures backed by sanctions. This is in addition to Article 1 of Mali’s Constitution, which sets forth the right of all citizens to integrity of person and guarantees the protection of all citizens from inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment, as do other similar international obligations of Mali. Elections were held recently in Mali and a new cabinet appointed. Both the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Diouncounda Traoré, and the Chair of the Committee on Health, Dr. Omar Mariko, have publicly stated their opposition to FGM. Dr. Mariko, an opposition Member of Parliament, offered to draft a specific law against FGM. More advocacy is now needed to encourage the government to honor its commitments and to enact a strong law against FGM as well as supporting education and outreach to relevant communities on the dangers of FGM.
FGM is not unique to Mali. Around the world it is estimated that more than 130 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM and 2 million girls every year, or 6,000 every day, are at risk of FGM. An extreme form of the many traditional practices used by communities to deny women equality, FGM is defended by both men and women as a rite of passage and a social prerequisite for marriage. It is used in an effort to control women’s sexuality. However, 16 of the 28 African countries where FGM is practiced have adopted laws to protect girls from this harmful practice. These laws appear to be having an impact on reducing the prevalence of FGM, particularly in those countries such as Burkina Faso where the law is publicized and enforced.
Please write to the Malian authorities and urge them to support the introduction and passage of a law against FGM as a matter of urgent priority. Mention the harmful effects of FGM and remind them of Mali’s obligations under international law, particularly the newly-ratified Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as its own Constitution, to eradicate FGM and to end discrimination against women and girls. Urge them also to take measures and support efforts to educate practicing communities on the harmful effects of FGM. Letters should be addressed to:
H.E. Amadou Toumany Touré President BP 1463, Koulouba Bamako, MALI Fax: +223 2-22-46-94
H.E. Maharafa Traoré Minister of Justice BP 97, Quartier du fleuve Bamako, MALI Fax: +223 2-23-00-63
H.E. Mme Maiga Sina Damba Minister for the Promotion of Women, Children and the Family BP 2688, Hamdalaye ACI 2000 Rue de l'Obelisque Porte 99 Bamako, MALI Fax: +223 2-22-75-24
|Tipo de Acción:||Awareness Raising|
|Patrocinada por:||Equality Now|
Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
NEW YORK, USA, 19 November 2008 UNICEF hosted a two-day conference on making legal systems work to achieve children's and women's rights. The event brought together representatives of governments, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies, as well as academics, parliamentarians and experts on human rights legislation.
UNICEF has played a leading role in encouraging legal reform to realize children's rights, Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted in her opening remarks at the conference, which wraps up today in New York City. She added that the meeting represented a step toward bringing together key actors engaged in legislative reform initiatives and launching discussions on how to formalize these initiatives into a coordinated effort to advance human rights.
In this video, Former Speaker of Parliament in Burkina Faso Mélégué Traoré talks about how his country addressed the human rights issue of female genital mutilation.