Archive | Background information RSS feed for this section

Death threats after reporting on FGM

14 Mar

Journalist from Liberia has gone into hiding in fear of attack

MONROVIA – In response to an article about FGM in Liberia, published last Thursday in the local daily FrontPage Africa, the Liberian journalist Mae Azango received death threats. According to Africa Review, Pulitzer-Center grantee Azango has now gone into hiding. “They left messages and told people to tell me that they will catch me and cut me so that will make me shut up”, fears Azango.

In her article she reports about FGM in rural Liberia, and the devastating, and sometimes deadly, effects it can produce. Furthermore two of three girls are victims of FGM in certain parts of the country, she reports.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has now called for Liberian police to ensure safety for Azango and other FrontPage Africa staff. “Authorities must send a clear message that threats of violence are crimes”, confirms CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita.

Ten out of Liberia´s 16 tribes practice FGM, accounting for up to 85 percent of the country´s population. Unsanitary conditions cause infections, tetanus and HIV transmissions.”The people behind these threats seem to be secure that they can act with impunity”, says Keita. It is important now, he stresses, to uphold the law and ensure prosecution.

FGM in Canada: Call to inform doctors

12 Mar

A recently published policy statement claims new curriculum of medical schools

TORONTO – The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada insists that information about treating patients who have had female genital mutilation should be integrated into the new curriculum of medical schools. “So what that means for us as physicians in Canada is we´re kind of confronted with this kind of anatomical difference, and we need to know how to treat them”, stresses Margaret Burnett, chair of the social and sexual issues committee, in an interview last Tuesday.
According to the Canadian Press a lot more immigrant women from Africa, who suffered FGM, are in medical attention. “One of the biggest things that we see is that sometimes the labour is obstructed because the opening isn´t big enough for the baby´s head to come through”, regrets Burnett. And: “So we have to know what episiotomy to make, how to repair that, in order that these ladies can have normal deliveries.”
The society first issued an official policy document against the practice in 1992. With this statement they want to remind members that FGM is a criminal offence in Canada, and reporting it to child welfare protection services is obligatory when it is suspected. Besides it should encourage doctors to counsel families against FGM and advocate for culturally competent support. “Education is very important. We need to emphasize that there´s no medical reason for this to be done”, explains Burnett.

Journalist reveals extent of FGM in Pakistan

22 Feb

Against all assumptions: It´s not a marginal issue

KARACHI – “This is one of the country´s best kept secrets”, writes the Pakistani journalist Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam in her blog on the website chaaidaani.wordpress.com last week. There she is talking about female genital mutilation (FGM), a problem, which was not located in Pakistan in that extent until now. After long researches Moazzam discovered that FGM in the mainly Muslim country is mostly carried out by the Bohra Community, about 100 000 members, and other isolated communities in Pakistan. “I did not want to believe that it was happening in my country”, admits Moazzam.
The main problem seems to lie in the non-communication within practicing families. Furthermore: They consider it obligatory according to their faith. But the majority of Muslim scholars world over agree that FGM is not an obligatory custom in Islam. “It is one of those customs that existed in Arab culture prior to the coming of Islam. It is neither advised nor recommended”, confirms Mufti Muhammad Afzal Asari.

With greater awareness about this problem in Pakistan, Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam wants to pave the way for informed decisions. “It is time, yet again, to bring this subject out of the closet.”

Valerie Krb

10 Jahre Desert Flower Foundation

6 Feb

10 Jahre Desert Flower Foundation

Nach dem ich seit 1997 als UN Sonderbotschafterin gegen FGM arbeitete entschloss ich mich 2002 meine eigene Organisation die Desert Flower Foundation zu gründen.

Mein Ziel war es, weltweit gegen dieses Verbrechen Aufmerksamkeit und eine Lobby bei Politikern und anderen NGO´s gegen FGM zu schaffen.

Vor allem war es mir wichtig zu informieren, dass FGM nicht nur in Afrika, Asien, dem Mittleren Osten praktiziert wird, sondern auch in Europa, USA, Kanada, Australien und Neuseeland. Wie ich aus den Afrikanischen Communities immer wieder erfahren habe ist FGM in Europa weit verbreitet.

Deshalb  entschied ich mich 2002 verdeckte Ermittlungen mit meinem Team in Europa durchzuführen. Wir benötigten 2 Jahre und recherchierten in London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Malmö, Helsinki, Oslo, Berlin, München, Wien, Zürich, Genf, Mailand, Rom, Madrid, Barcelona und Lisabon.

Das Resultat  schockierte uns.

Mindestens 500.000 Frauen und Mädchen, die Opfer von FGM geworden sind leben in Europa. Und jedes Jahr sind tausende Mädchen von diesem grausamen Verbrechen in Europa bedroht.

Wir trafen Mädchen die in Europa genital verstümmelt wurden. Wir trafen Religionsführer, die FGM befürworteten und andere die dagegen kämpften. Wir trafen viel Menschen aus den afrikanischen Communities, Afrikanische KünstlerInnen, MenschenrechtsaktivistInnen, SozialarbeiterInnen, PolitikerInnen, ÄrztInnen, Hebammen in Spitälern, LehrerInnen und KindergärtnerInnen und afrikanische Frauen, die in Europa FGM praktizierten.

Wir nahmen an Gerichtsverfahren in Paris teil gegen Beschneiderinnen und Eltern, die ihre Töchter in Frankreich genitalverstümmeln ließen und trafen Doktor Foldes, der der einzige Chirurg in Europa war, der Klitoris und Labia von Genitalverstümmelungsopfern wieder herstellte.

Wir sammelten 4.000 Seiten Informationsmaterial und 350 Stunden Ton- und Filmmaterial.

2005 produzierten wir über diese Recherche das Buch „Schmerzenskinder“ und präsentierten 2006 die Resultate dem Ministerrat der EU im Brüssel. Wir diskutierten mit den MinisterInnen Maßnahmen gegen FGM in Europa.

Nach dem Treffen wurden in vielen europäischen Ländern Gesetze gegen FGM erlassen oder verschärft.

Seit 2002 wurden von der Desert Flower Foundation weltweit mehr als 3.000 Beiträge für TV und Radiostationen, Magazine und Tageszeitungen sowie Internetblogs initiiert und begleitet. Wir haben 2010 die erste Social Media Kampagne gegen FGM lanciert, die 2010 mit dem Social Media Award ausgezeichnet wurde. Als Koproduzentin des Films WÜSTENLUME hat die Desert Flower Foundation 2008 die Filmproduktion fachlich beraten und ab 2009 die Veröffentlichung des Filmes international mit Medienarbeit unterstützt. Bis heute ist WÜSTENBLUME in 34 Ländern erfolgreich angelaufen.

Der Film wird von zahlreichen NGO’s von UN Women bis zur Desert Flower Foundation als wichtiges Instrument zur Aufklärungsarbeit gegen FGM eingesetzt.

Mehr als 100.000 Menschen nutzten das Beratungsservice waris@utanet.at und jeder erhielt Antwort. Viele Frauen, die von Genitalverstümmelung bedroht waren und viele die Opfer wurden haben sich bei uns gemeldet, aber auch SchülerInnen und StudentInnen, die Informationen für Facharbeiten, Präsentationen und Dissertationen benötigten.

Heute arbeiten 9 MitarbeiterInnen für die Desert Flower Foundation, entwickeln neue Strategien und Kampagnen und bearbeiten tausende Anfragen. Und bei Google finden sich 1.180.000 Einträge über unsere Arbeit.

2011 entschieden wir uns für eine neue Strategie und starteten die Kampagne TOGETHER FOR AFRICAN WOMEN in der Überzeugung, dass Armut in Afrika zuerst bekämpft werden muss, bevor man FGM langfristig ausrotten kann. Deswegen investieren wir nun in Bildung und Berufstraining, vor allem für Frauen.

Wir unterstützen soziale Investments in Afrika, um für Frauen Arbeit und Einkommen zu schaffen. Denn nur so schaffen sie es unabhängig zu werden und über ihren eigenen Körper und den Körper ihrer Töchter selbst bestimmen zu können.

Ihr werdet 2012 mehr darüber lesen können auf unserer Webseite, auf Facebook, Twitter, unserem Blog und unserem neuen Youtube Channel.

LOVE,

Waris Dirie

FGM not merely an African problem, high rates in the Middle East

24 Jan

FGM not merely an African problem; high rates in the Middle East

Read the Press Release by Stop FGM Kurdistan:

BEIRUT, 18 JANUARY 2012, The first conference ever on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Middle East is currently taking place in Beirut, Lebanon, with participants from Iraqi Kurdistan, Central Iraq and Yemen with input from experts from Indonesia and Egypt. The groundbreaking event, organized by the non-governmental organizations Wadi and Hivos, is serving as a first common platform for experts and activists fighting FGM in the Middle East. Its purpose is to learn from each other, create a network and cooperation structure, and develop a coherent transnational strategy to eradicate FGM.

Until recently FGM was considered to be practiced mostly in African countries. Not much information is available about this practice in the Middle East. However, research, publications and various other evidence indicate that it is also practiced in Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Oman and Saudi Arabia. FGM is still very much a taboo issue in the Middle East. It is high time to break the silence about this gross violation of human and women’s rights.

No side issue

Politicians, the media, international organisations, most notably the UN, have since long recognized FGM in Africa and treated it as merely an African issue. Considering the astonishingly high FGM rates in the Middle East it is striking that the above mentioned actors are still treating the problem in the Middle East much as a side issue. The Beirut conference was set up in order to draw the world’s attention to this neglected fact and send a strong message that it is time for concerted action.

For instance, in the Beirut conference a physician from Southern Iraq presented evidence (interview recordings) in public which indicates FGM is also practiced in Central and South Iraq. The practice is a complete taboo for Iraqis and flatly denied by the Iraqi Central Government.

Muslim World

Most of the heavily affected countries in Asia are part of the Muslim World. Many Muslim religious leaders are playing a considerable role in the justification of the practice, however participants agreed that it should not be labeled a religious practice. In each country, religion, politics, the media and of course local communities themselves must be won for the cause to play a positive role in the eradication of FGM. Public awareness is as important as pressure on the respective governments to act.

The Beirut conference calls upon the people and governments of the countries in the Middle East and the international community to start addressing FGM, and notably:

– Request civil society organizations to provide data about FGM in their respective countries;

– Pressure governments of countries in the Middle East to take up FGM as gross human rights violation;

– Pressure governments from the Middle East to collect credible data and statistics about prevalence of FGM;

– Set up a regional network addressing FGM in the Middle East;

– Make FGM a core issue within UN policies active in countries in the Middle East where FGM is practiced;

– Request EU, UN and US to address FGM as a core issue within their foreign policies towards countries in the Middle East.

Background information on FGM (source: WHO):

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is often carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers.

For more information please contact:

Thomas Von der Osten-Sacken (Wadi) +49-15156906002 or thomasvdo yahoo.de

Jessie Hexspoor (Hivos) +31-641969050 or jhexspoor hivos.nl

FGM Film “Silent Scream” shortlisted for the ´Young Voice Award´ 2012

19 Jan
We are happy to announce that the 27 young film makers from Bristol involved in the production of the FGM film Silent Scream has been shortlisted (along with 2 other films) for ‘The Young Voice Award’ 2012 as part of the First Light Films award season. The ceremony will take place at the British Film Institue (home of the London Film Festival) on the Southbank, London on Monday March 5th where the winners from the various categories will be announced.

This year’s ‘Young Voice Award’ will be judged by the following members of the British film industry:

Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdiction, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead)
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting)
Rebecca O’Brien (Sweet Sixteen, The Wind that Shakes the Barley)
Davis Heymen (Harry Potter series of films)

For more info:
www.firstlightonline.co.uk/fl-awards/
 Your Desert Flower Foundation Team

Girls and women in New Zealand ´at risk´ to undergo FGM

17 Jan

As published in the New Zealand Magazine:

An international study says “a growing number” of girls and young women living in immigrant communities in New Zealand are at risk of genital mutilation.

The practice – which involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons – is banned in New Zealand.

Any person who carries out the procedure, or orders it to be done to a dependant, may be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The Ministry of Health last year funded a series of workshops on the practice, with those present being told there was no evidence that the controversial female circumcision operations occurred in New Zealand.

It is a stance that is also shared by the NZ Female Genital Mutilation Education Programme – a community-based initiative partly set up in response to the rising number of women settling in New Zealand from countries that practise the procedure.

But a newly released United Nations report on a hoped-for global end to female genital mutilation states: “The practice is prevalent in 28 countries in Africa and in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.

“In addition, a growing number of women and girls among immigrant communities have been subjected to or are at risk of female genital mutilation in Australia and New Zealand.”

Under New Zealand law, it is illegal to send or make any arrangement for a child to be sent out of the country to have the practice performed, to assist or encourage any person in New Zealand to perform the procedure on a New Zealand citizen or a resident outside of the country and to convince or encourage any other New Zealand citizen or resident to go outside of New Zealand to have the procedure performed. The law was passed in 1996 and to date there have been no prosecutions.

The New Zealand FGM organisation says some female migrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Indonesian Muslims had undergone female circumcision before arriving in the country.

Somalia is among the countries that the procedure is most practised in. Thousands of Somalis have sought refuge in New Zealand since the early 1990s after the African nation was wracked by civil war.