Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Say No! to Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is a heinous crime still perpetrated against girls.

On February 6 2011, throughout the day, the entire world is being asked to chant in unison a resounding, “NO to FGM!” with all activists against female genital mutilation.

This is the date marking the 8th International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Collectively we can honour the global concerted efforts which rarely get the media attention however represent both practical and existential struggles against FGM (as it is labelled for short).

Being that the 6th of February falls on a Sunday the UN-sponsored meeting backed by the World Health Organization will take place in Geneva, Monday 9 am Feb 7 at “Le Centre International de Conférences” (CICG).

It has been a long-time wait from many activists’ point of view, but it is encouraging news as the proud two-pronged theme for 2011 is finally emerging:

“Building Bridges between Europe and Africa” with emphasis on “Engaging media” and “Engaging governments”, an indispensable factor (say the experts) to being able to reach zero tolerance to FGM. The Inter-African Committee is scheduled to take the floor at Monday’s Geneva meeting issuing this statement in advance from IAC Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

“The objective of celebrating February 6 is to call International, Regional, National and Community attention to the efforts needed to free women and girls from the adverse tradition of female genital mutilation and to accelerate action towards its total elimination”.

“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a violation of basic human rights principles, as stipulated in Article 24.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), other International and Regional instruments, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Relating to the Rights of Women in Africa, (Article 5) and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, 2004″.

The main actors on the anti-FGM world front have traditionally been The Inter-African Committee, UNFPA, The UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF and so it makes perfect sense it is these organizations (said ‘branches of the UN’ that have been designated hosts for this UN-sponsored meeting.

There is formal media scheduled to be represented as well, including, Afromedianet. Equally, European Network-FGM will speak in a session.

This initiative signals to the whole world that concrete genuine steps are being taken to solidify the resources for anti-FGM initiative within government led by the United Nations.

For far too long FGM has been pushed under the carpet. That’s been the sentiment of many activists who have struggled to raise awareness over more than 40 years. 

Things are different now. For the first time in history chief world-actors alongside prominent activists have agreed to band together.

The work of all anti-FGM organizations across the world have been emboldened by the current UN culture, chiefly the sentiments of Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon stating unequivocally, in September 2010 UN-New Work Meeting, his gender equality UN commitment (Diane Walsh, Vancouver Observer).

Coupled with this hopeful UN promise we’ve seen the emergence of the agency of UN Women on the scene, with a new website out in January 2011. Of course the impressive former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet which SG Ban Ki-moon himself appointed at the helm says a lot:

The Executive Director/Under-Secretary General of UN Women is designed to enable for a different climate to flourish, an anti-FGM policy commitment in global terms.

It is clear to anyone looking in, this year’s International Day is significant in that the overall strategy is upped in ranks and status with, as a political player, distinctly UN-Women driving in the shoulder and putting its weight behind the anti-FGM cause in a global capacity. UN-Women is seemingly poised to take the lead on the #AntiFGMGlobal narrative.

The formidable contribution of The AHA Foundation, No Peace without Justice, Ban FGM and FGM NETWORK are obvious central players as well adding to the current and overall political fervour galvanizing support behind ending the practice around the world.

TOSTAN out of Senegal, The Orchid Project (Davos winner) and with on-going endorsement from Nick Kristof of the New York Times and The Waris Dirie Foundation are also concurrently core developing partnerships with the same common goal of eradication.

As like UNICEF, many NGOs operate in tandem with the mandate of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices, whose personnel then work with several NGOs on the ground in Africa e.g. New Vision and Reach. By no means is this above list exhaustive.

Moreover, the commitment to eradicate FGM is exemplified by current initiatives taken place at a high-governmental level, both, nationally and internationally. These include: a global Appeal to Ban FGM worldwide underscoring efforts to bring forth an actual UN Resolution into the UN General Assembly at some point in the near future. This would seek a ban on the practice of female genital mutilation world-wide and would carry the weight of international law against torture behind it and along with it the goal to make the very UN Resolution— ultimately—the 9th— of the 8 Millennium Goals.

There is reason to have hope.

A draft-copy resolution is in the works spearheaded by the Inter-African Committee, a giant, in the anti-FGM movement. As it’s currently endorsed by UN headquarters in Geneva, Donor Working Group and Global Alliance against FGM(GAFGM), a German-Canadian group now operational out of Geneva, we’re seeing several federating efforts.

Using knowledge-sharing, a Global Portal is being developed by #GAFGM with the aim to centralize all FGM-based resources. In addition to providing an electronic-hub for monitoring situations on the ground it will also provide immediate media-outreach. Whilst it is in its infancy it is nevertheless already a one-stop click resource — able to view all resources pooled around FGM in one website — and with ability to add to it. And so, as a result going forward, mobilization and communications strategies between Europe, Africa and the Middle East can be ever enhancing. This is allowing for new partnerships and is evolving every day, to be posted on the portal.

GAFGM founder Elisabeth Wilson adds her voice to the struggle:

There is neither danger nor contradiction in the varying approaches to eradicating FGM which include legal and political and cultural. These can include but are not limited to strategies helping communities with unlearning harmful-to-girl cultural theory methodologies; sensitization and education; alternative employment measures for excisors; many different ways to fight FGM but always complementary” (translation from French).

Indeed there are reports of successful law enforcement and arrest of exisors making the criminalization of FGM an accepted paradigm and an integral part of any overall sensitization strategy.

In Geneva, this spring, Ambassadors from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Kenya, Ethiopia will be heard speaking at session. Those African delegations (Nigeria rumored) to the UN who opposed going forward to take these greater steps [becoming clear] at the UN September 2010 New York conference have been successfully marginalized in part on account of the tremendous unification of mobilization efforts by the aforementioned plethora of organizations working on the front-line. Importantly 2011 at UN Geneva is a synchronization of strategies between Europe and Africa.

It is only through world-wide awareness of the on-going existence of FGM that true eradication can begin to take place.

As one Global Woman anonymous anti-FGM activist says,

“If you know something, get in touch. It only takes a tweet, email, or a FB post, to get involved. Know that excisors practicing FGM (anyone condoning, lending credence to babies, little girls and womens’ genitals being cut and sliced in societies of fear, coercion and confusion are under our watchful eye. It’s clear that the future can and will be better. If you see FGM happening, speak out. Don’t be a witness and do nothing”.

Tips: during the Zero Tolerance Day, please take the time to watch these two videos, which includes work and presentation by Ban FGM Campaign. Share with friends. Messages for UN Women – in pictures‬‬

Please note, Twitter hash-tag is: #FGM, #NOTOFGM, #STOPFGM #Feb6 #AntiFGMGlobal


For more information and March 2011 UN Geneva #GAFGM symposium article on the subject of anti-FGM activism, contact: mediageode at yahoo dot com