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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.

One FGM-patient a day in London´s hospitals

29 Feb

Recently published figures show real extent of FGM in Great Britain

LONDON – More than 2100 women and girls in London have sought hospital treatment for genital mutilation over the past six years. Therefore the extent of the suffering in Great Britain becomes obvious for the first time – meaning almost one woman a day. More than 700 of those needed to be admitted or have surgery. These figures were published recently by the London Evenings Standard on its website.
“FGM is a particular challenge for London where more girls are at risk than anywhere else and, just as we celebrate this city´s diversity, we must not shy away from difficult issues because of cultural sensitivities”, warns Jane Ellison, member of the British parliament.
The published figures show a peak of treatments in 2010: 442 women were seeking treatment because of female genital mutilation – a 30 per cent increase on 2007. Kit Melthouse, deputy mayor of London, explains that a report on FGM has already been commissioned which puts tackling the practice.
Experts warned that the true number of victims is far higher, with many going to clinics or suffering in silence. About 66 000 women and girls are thought to be affected in England and Wales.

Tunisians protest against the visit of FGM promoting cleric

28 Feb

 Egypt sheikh promotes circumcision during his visit in Tunisia.

TUNIS/CAIRO – Last weekend hundreds of Tunisians protested against the visit of Islamic cleric Wagdy Ghonem near the capital Tunis. According to the Egyptian news website bikyamasr.com, Ghonem angered Tunisians strongly by promoting female genital mutilation and calling for Islamic law to be applied in Tunisia. The crowd held signs reading “Ghonem must leave”, and “We don´t accept hate language”. Besides he was insulted as an “extremist” and “intruder”.

In a statement of the health ministry it is written that FGM is a “condemned practice that has nothing to do with our culture and society”. Although circumcision of girls is banned in Tunisia, conservatives, who believe the habit promotes virtue, do it anyway. Still many young girls bleed to death while getting cut.

Tunisian women, who were previously the most liberated of all in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, fear loss of those rights with the growing political Islam in the country. Amal Belhaj, editor of an online newspaper, says that a “growing culture in Tunisia is calling unveiled women ´whores´”. She called on democratic countries to support Tunisian women, who were never in such danger before.

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

FGM UK: Kein Training für Hebammen

21 Feb

Nach erschreckenden Ergebnissen bei einer Umfrage in Großbritannien werden Forderungen nach einer Ausbildung für Hebammen laut

LONDON – Laut einer aktuellen Umfrage ist das Bewusstsein über Genitalverstümmelung bei Hebammen in Großbritannien erschütternd niedrig. Wie die Nachrichtenagentur Press Association auf nursingtimes.net berichtet, habe ein Drittel der Hebammen demnach mit genital verstümmelten Frauen zu tun, doch nur ein Bruchteil davon sei dafür geschult. “Es besorgt mich zutiefst, dass so viele Hebammen in Großbritannien mit Genitalverstümmelung konfrontiert sind. Das Ausmaß in diesem Land ist besorgniserregend“, stellt Cathy Warwick, Direktorin des Royal College of Midwives, bestürzt fest.
Denn 66 000 Mädchen und Frauen sind in Großbritannien von Genitalverstümmelung betroffen. Und: Vielfach werden diese Fälle nicht detailliert festgehalten. Es sei dringend, erklärt Warwick weiter, sich mit diesem Problem auseinanderzusetzen. Sind es doch circa 24 000 Mädchen, die landesweit gefährdet sind.”Es darf keine Toleranz bei weiblicher Genitalverstümmelung geben und wir müssen tun, was wir können, um dieses Verbrechen weltweit zu stoppen.”

Kenya tops the list of 15 African countries which have majorly reduced cases of FGM

20 Feb

Kenya Tops drive against FGM

Summary: There is now a 25 percentage point differential in prevalence of the practice between Kenyans aged 15-19 and Kenyans aged 40-44, according to the report.

Kenya tops the list of 15 sub-Saharan countries that have drastically reduced cases of female circumcision, a UN report says.

The incidence of female circumcision fell by nearly 16 per cent in the country between 2003 and 2009, the UN Population Fund says in the report released on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting on Monday.

The survey also found that younger women in Kenya were abandoning the practice at a faster rate than those in the same age group in the 14 other countries taking part in a UN-sponsored anti-cutting programme.

“These findings show that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls and women,” says UN Population Fund director Babatunde Osotimehin.

The report attributed the decline in the number of women undergoing circumcision to sustained public campaigns against FGM, the passing of the FGM Bill last year and the public renunciation of female cutting by communities that have hitherto practised it such as the Ilchamus and the Pokot.

President Kibaki signed the anti-FGM Bill into law in September last year. The law prohibits the practice, safeguards against violation of a person’s mental or physical integrity through the practice of FGM.

Those found conducting the practice are liable to serve up to seven years in prison and fines of up to KShs500,000 (Shs14 million).

Furthermore, anyone who causes death in the process of carrying out female circumcision is liable to life imprisonment.

 

 

As reported by Daily Monitor

Another African country joins an initiative against FGM

17 Feb

Uganda joins global anti-FGM initiative

The government of Uganda has joined an international initiative backed the United Nations [UN] to end the ancient practice of female genital mutilation [FGM] which is practiced by the Sabiny people of eastern Uganda and many other communities across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

The initiative is being carried out in 15 African countries: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

It includes engaging all community groups, such as traditional and religious leaders, women, men and young girls themselves, in discussing the harmful effects of the practice, while highlighting that it is not a religious requirement. The programme also supports laws and policies against the practice.

A new United Nations report has shown that almost 2,000 communities across Africa abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) last year, prompting calls for a renewed global push to end this harmful practice once and for all.

According to the report issued by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the total number of communities renouncing FGM/C has now reached 8,000 over the last few years.

“…These encouraging findings show that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls and women,” said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, which is observed on 6 February.

To mark the Day, Dr. Osotimehin and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake issued a joint statement renewing their commitment to put an end to the 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.

FGM/C refers to a number of practices which involve cutting away part or all of a girl’s external genitalia. The practice – recognized globally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women – has no health benefits, causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, according to UN agencies.

Each year, around three million girls and women – or some 8,000 girls each day – face the risk of mutilation or cutting. An estimated 130 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone the practice, mostly in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East.

The new report is prepared by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for the Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM/C, which was set up in 2008 and tries to spur change through a culturally sensitive, human rights-based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also added her voice to calls to the end the practice. “…Every government has an obligation to protect its citizens from such abuse. As we commemorate International Day of Zero Tolerance and remember those who have been harmed, we reaffirm our commitment to overturning deeply entrenched social norms and abolishing this practice.” the US top diplomat said.

She added that, “…all women and girls, no matter where they are born or what culture they are raised in, deserve the opportunity to realize their potential.”

Written by Ahmed Bogere Masembe

10th Anniversary of the Desert Flower Foundation

6 Feb

10th Anniversary of the Desert Flower Foundation

 

Dear friends and supporters,

After working as an UN Special ambassador since 1997, in 2002 I decided to found my own organization, the Desert Flower Foundation.

The main goal of the Foundation for me was to raise worldwide awareness on the issue of FGM through media coverage, to lobby against FGM with political leaders and other NGO´s and to make people aware that FGM does not only exist in Africa, parts of Asia and Middle East but also in the west, in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

As I knew from African communities in Europe, FGM is widespread and even practiced in these countries. I therefore decided to organize an undercover investigation with my team all over Europe.

It took us two years and we investigated in London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Malmö, Helsinki, Oslo, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona ad Lisbon. The result was shocking: At least 500,000 girls are affected in Europe and more young girls become victims of this torturous practice every day.

We met many girls who were victims of Female Genital Mutilation; we met religious leaders promoting FGM and religious leaders opposing FGM, leaders of African communities, African artists, human rights activists, representatives of NGO´s, politicians, social services, doctors and midwives in hospitals, teachers and nurses in kindergartens, women who performed FGM in Europe.

We attended court hearings against parents who mutilated their daughters in France. We met Doctor Foldes, who as the only surgeon performs reconstructive surgery of clitoris and labia for FGM victims in France.

We collected a research material of more than 4 000 pages and 350 hours of recordings.

Then, we produced a book about FGM called Desert Children and presented the collected material to the Council of Ministers in Brussels  in January 2006 to discuss direct measures against FGM. After our meeting, almost all countries implemented or strengthen their existing laws against FGM and initiative campaigns against FGM.

Since 2002, more than 3000 stories have been initiated by us on television, radio, in newspapers, magazines and on blogs.

We have launched the first social media campaign against FGM, STOP FGM NOW, which was awarded as the best Social Media Campaign 2010.

As an associate producer of the film “Desert Flower”, the Desert Flower Foundation consulted the production of the film in 2008 and supported the launch around the globe from 2009. Up today, the movie was successfully released in 34 countries.

Today, the film is used by many NGO´s from UN Women to our own Foundation to as an important tool to educate people and raise awareness about this cruel practice.

In our online consulting service, waris@utanet.at, we have received over 100,000 emails since 2002 and every one of them was answered.

Many of them were women affected or threatened by FGM, students preparing a presentation or dissertation about FGM and organizations that wish to initiate their own campaign against FGM.

Today, the staff of our Foundation consists of nine people developing new campaigns, and handling the thousands of requests and the Foundation is currently mentioned 1,180,000 times on Google.

In 2011, we decided to launch a new campaign and strategy TOGETHER FOR AFRICAN WOMEN. We are convinced that women have to come out of poverty first, before eradicating the problem of FGM in Africa. Therefore in 2012, we started investing in education and vocational training, especially for women.

We support social investments to create an income for African women; because we believe that it is the most important to give women income and empower them so they are able to take their own decisions about their bodies and the bodies of their daughters. You will read more about this on our

Website  http://www.desertflowerfoundation.org/en/

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/warisdiriefoundation

Twitter  http://www.twitter.com/Waris_Dirie

Our Blog https://warisdirie.wordpress.com/

YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/WarisTheDesertFlower

 

LOVE,

Waris Dirie

 

 

Puntland (Somalia) enacted law against FGM

31 Jan

After Women’s groups in the Somali town of Galkayo, near the place of birth of Waris Dirie, was lobbying the authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland to enact a law against FGM, the practice has been successfully banned.

Puntland takes stand against Female Genital Mutilation

Two decades of civil war have contributed to the negligence of women’s rights across the Somali region. Women continue to suffer from the tragedies of the war as well as from practices including FGM.

However, the government of Puntland enacted laws against Female Genital Mutilation in November 2011, a development that has been welcomed by human rights activists across the world. The new law came into effect after long discussions and eventual support by the traditional and religious leaders in addition to various scholars.

Participants discussing proposal to discourage FMG
Photo Credit: PDRC

To encourage these positive developments, Interpeace local partner Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC) hosted a two-day conference with leading women’s rights activists from across the region – Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya as well as from Somali Region: Somaliland, Puntland and South-Central Somalia.

The conference was organized by Puntland Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs (MOWDAFA) and was held at PDRC’s Main conference hall in Garowe, Puntland. The conference focused on how to best approach policies around FGM.

Over 150 women and other concerned Somalis participated in the conference. They traveled from across Puntland, Somaliland, and South-Central Somalia. Those from the Somali diaspora in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti also attended.

Minister of Women and Familiy Affairs in Puntland Asha Gelle Dirie
Photo Credit: PDRC

As a persistent activist for women’s rights and family development, Ms. Asha Gelle Dirie, Puntland’s Minister of Women and Family Affairs organized the conference. The Transitional Federal Government’s Minister of Women Development, Ms. Maryan Aweys, officially opened the conference.

Among the dignitaries who participated in the conference were the First Lady of Puntland H.E. Abdurahman Faroole, the Vice President of Puntland Abdismed Ali Shire and Ms. Amina Abib who is a Goodwill Ambassador of the FGM eradication campaign. In her opening speech Ms. Abib expressed her joy to attend a conference focused on bringing an end to Female Genital Mutilation. The conference emphasized the need for Somali women to join forces with each other to end this practice.

The conference produced 9 proposals on how best to end FGM across Puntland and the Horn of Africa.