Friday, March 19, 2010

FGM Conference Delegates Speak Out

NEWS BANJUL, THE GAMBIA(MB)-Regional delegates from Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and The Gambia attending the just-concluded Regional Conference on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), on 10 February 2010, have all said that FGM violates the human rights of girls and women, and called on states to enact and implement laws.
In a vox pop with News & Report Magazine, Ms Fatou Touray a representative COSEPRAT Organisation in Senegal, saluted The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) for hosting the regional conference.
She also thanked the Senegalese Embassy in Banjul for being associated with the conference, and all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which attended, as well as Yolo Camba Solidaridad for partnering with GAMCOTRAP.
According to her, COSEPRAT joined the FGM campaign because the organisation wants to see the rights of the girl child protected. The rights of women should not be violated because of harmful traditional practices, he added.
Ms Touray noted that in Senegal there are laws that forbid the practice, adding that despite all the laws put in place many people are still practicing FGM, citing the rural areas.
“We should say no to all forms of violation, and reform all laws that are detrimental to the women.
She added that NGOs should be involved in networking, and should go beyond borders. Partnerships needed to be strengthened among women’s groups, decision-makers, youth groups, NGOs and development partners in the fight against FGM, in order to succeed, she further noted.
Ms Touray revealed that women that suffer from virginal fistula are marginalised from the society, in which most of them do not have husbands in society. All these needed to be addressed, as they can be seen as a human rights violation, she added.
Asked about the support her NGO renders to ex-circumcisers, Mr. Touray said her organisation supports them by engaging them in skilled work so as to be self- employed. “We train them on skills and entrepreneurship to be independent”.
Her organisation works in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Health in Senegal and other partners on FGM, according to Ms Touray.
“We are also interested in early marriage because it is also a violation”.
Citing some of the places in Senegal where FGM is practiced, she mentioned Tambacounda, Mbour, Thies, Kaolack noting that despite the law in Senegal, FGM is still rampant.
Meta Camara of “Sinim Mira Nassi Que” (Mandinka meaning “Think for the Future” from Guinea Bissau said one needs to be a hero to join the fight against FGM.
He revealed that the first lady who started the fight, Mariama Busa Baldeh, passed away after seven years when she started the NGO.
The lady who succeeded Mariama Busa Baldeh also died, and people started saying that anyone involving himself/herself in the FGM campaign will die. Some in Guinea Bissau even said that to talk about FGM is to talk against Islam, according to Mr. Camara.
He went on to explain that FGM is not an Islamic, but a cultural practice, adding that it is a harmful traditional practice that has affected, and is affecting millions of girls and women in Africa and other parts of the world.
There is great concern about the increase in Guinea Bissau of FGM, which is carried out by the rural people, he said.
Mr. Camara called on NGOs to strengthen partnerships, and urged the governments to enact and implement laws prohibiting female genital mutilation.
Asked why as a man, he joined the FGM campaign, he described himself as a human rights activist who wants to see that all human beings free on the continent.
“In fact, in most households, it is the men that have all the power, and sometimes they are the ones who take the children to be circumcised”.
He then called on men to collaborate with FGM campaigners to eradicate the menace in Africa.
Ms Aminata Ahouhou Maiga from Mali representing the Amsopt organisation said for her organisation has been engaged in the sensitisation campaign at the grassroots level for the past 20 years.
According to her, the NGO also partners with Amnesty International, international NGOs, sub-regional NGOs and other organisations in Mali that are involved in FGM.
According to her, in terms of practicing FGM, she believes that Mali tops the list with the highest percentage in Africa. Ms Maiga said that the country has a population of about 12 million, with over 20 ethnic groups, and that 84 percent of the inhabitants carry out FGM.
Some of the girls undergo the practice as early as 9 to 10 years of age, and the prevalence is high, she further explained.
Quoting from the last population census in Mali, she said the census report revealed that 84 percent are practicing FGM, which is alarming, she said.
According to her, some of the protocols on FGM are not being implemented by many, and that this makes it difficult for them (the campaigners) to meet their objectives.
Ms Fanta Fatty a Gambian participant said that FGM is a gross violation of human rights, and called on the younger generation to abandon it, saying that it is harmful. Other participants expressed similar sentiments.

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