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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.

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

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.

Kenyan Authorities take action against FGM practitioners

13 Jan

Kenya belongs to those african countries where the FGM is widespread among  several Kenyan tribes. Despite the fact that this country has joined the Maputo Protocol, little has been done so far. However, change is coming as authorities started taking action against those who practice FGM.

Read the story as posted by Kenyan Newspaper The STANDARD:

Police have launched a manhunt for a chief and an elderly woman in Tana River County who subjected 10 underage girls to Female Genital Mutilation late last year.
The Kalakacha location chief is said to have allowed the girls, who included his seven-year-old daughter, to be subjected to the outlawed rite.
The chief ran away after he discovered that police were looking for him.
The woman being sought by police is aged 65 and is suspected to have conducted the rite.
Tana River DO George Kamweru said it was unfortunate that the incident took place under the supervision of the local chief who was expected to protect the children.
Kamweru said he had asked the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation in the area to record a statement with the police for appropriate action to be taken against the chief.
On Wednesday, a group of women raided the home of the chief and found ten girls recuperating lying in a Manyatta.

Exclusive eyewithness report on FGM in Indonesia, a story from Isabella Humphrey

11 Jan

Here you can read the story about FGM from Isabella Humphrey from her current travels in Indonesia: