A few weeks late in coming but we bring you a selection from the web of FGC-related news from March. On March 8th we celebrated International Women’s Day. Several of our featured blogs highlight voices from the African continent revealing varying points of view about female genital cutting currently. News of positive campaigns from Mali and Uganda are featured as well as a dark cloud which has been hovering over Liberian journalism in the past few weeks. Journalist Mae Azango published an article on the practice of FGC in secret women’s societies in Liberia Front Page Africa sparking a series of threats and creating a story of her own across the media and online.
International Women’s Day 2012
To mark International Women’s Day and the abuses of women’s rights that continue across the globe, Amnesty International utilised the attention on women’s empowerment to speak out against FGC in Indonesia. On 8th March, Amnesty called on the Indonesian government to repeal a 2010 regulation permitting a medicalised version of FGC, reports the Jakarta Post.
From Uganda, The Daily Monitor marked International Women’s Day by reporting on some of the achievements to end FGC made by women’s rights advocates across the globe. The article highlighted some of the progress made on at national and international level:
- 20 African countries have banned FGC
- The African Union has taken a strong position condemning the practice through its Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which bans FGC as a violation of human rights
- Many governments in Africa are implementing national action plans that, in conjunction with the law, provide information and awareness campaigns, especially in rural areas where the practice is more widespread.
The article does however recognise the many challenges that still remain. One of the key targets it sets out is a UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution that would universally ban FGC across the African continent. According to the Daily Monitor, a resolution would
“be a pivotal instrument to spur greater and more cohesive political mobilisation worldwide. Critically, a UNGA ban would express political will at the highest level to recognise– and ensure the adoption of all measures to bring an end to–FGM as a human rights violation against millions of women and girls around the world.”
Celebrations and progress were reported from Nigeria in an article from the excellent website MakeWomenCount.org, looking at the exponential rate of abandonment of FGC in Senegal as a model of social change.
To mark International Women’s Day, the UN in Geneva launched an art exhibition called “Soul Gazers”, reports the Global Journal. The series of paintings which engage men with FGC abandonment, were mostly contributed by male artists. Godfrey Willimas-Okorodus, one of the contributors from Nigeria, explained his motivation for submitting his artwork: “I am using my talent to let the world know that as long as I have breath in my body I will not let any form of injustice and victimization pass by me without protesting loudly and constantly […] Even after I die my works will still be there to fight on.”
News from Africa
Several articles in March expressed the voices of men and women from practising communities, allowing the real stories from FGC practising communities to be articulated in public spaces.
AllAfrica.com published interviews from the Gambia including a number of participants expressing their experiences and views around FGC.Here is one that really stood out, revealing the very real harmful consequences of FGC experienced by women:
An old woman: “It is our culture but not in the Quran. Even the doctors are against it. It should be stopped because a lot of women have bled to death without knowing it was the cause of it. For me I did not allow my children to go through it.”
A report from a Ugandan paper, New Vision looks at the varying responses of men, women and cutters from Amudat, Uganda, expressing a variety of opinions in regards to FGC. Two of these that we’ve selected reveal how FGC is deeply rooted and cultural embedded in the lives of women, and the obstacles facing work to shifting opinions
Margaret Kapkoikoi, Karita sub-county, an elder:
“I was inspired to start cutting girls by my mother in law. It was profitable business. It will be a difficult practice to abandon unless we find better ways to survive and practice our culture.”
Mary Chepokarial, circumcised woman, 39:
“FGC/M has been so central to our lives and culture that uncircumcised women were always laughed at. You would never be married. It has not been easy to stop because it is part of our culture”
We also stumbled across a fantastic short film about a photography campaign launched in Mail to involve key actors in the community including a singer, doctor, village chief, a former cutter and young women, putting their voices towards an end to FGC. London based photographer Sam Faulkner travelled to photographing and putting together the campaign, ‘Stop the cut’ in the colourful setting of Bamako, Mali. Sini Sanuman was the NGO behind this powerful campaign.
Meanwhile, UNICEF reported from a project in Mali where there is currently no law banning FGC. A major communication drive sponsored by UNICEF includes a creative approach to addressing FGC in Mali including radio and television broadcasts, street theatre and mobile cinemas encouraging discussion amongst local people. And it is the women of these communities who are leading these movements for change.
There has been lots of press around the story of Mae Azango, the Liberian journalist who has gone into hiding after receiving death threats. Front Page Africa published her article about the negative health implication of FGC which is practiced in the Sande women’s society in parts of Liberia. Mae Azango’s story which was published on March 8th to mark International Women’s day examined in the detail the story of a 47 year old Sande woman who underwent FGC as a little girl. Azango was threatened with being taking into the bush and cut herself, she told the Daily Beast, one of several international outlets to have reported the story. The Daily Beast reports on the death threats which have followed, highlighting the taboo nature of the practice and the secrecy surrounding FGC in this women-only secret society.
New Narratives later reported on a shut down the activities of the Sande Secret women’s society, including FGC. According to the report, the announcements by Government ministers for Culture, gender as well as traditional leaders come in the wake of Azango’s reporting on FGC:
“We have found out that in order for people to stop something, you have to give them something in place of that,” said Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan-Cassell. “So that is where we come in now, is working along with them. So we are going to go from county to county, and ask them, ‘look, if we want them to do this, what are we going to give them in place of that?’ Because for some of them, it’s their livelihood. For some of them, it’s just getting together. But we are saying, don’t use our young girls for this.”
More here on this story from Think Africa Press.