In recent years, it has become evident that international cooperation is important in promoting inclusive and sustainable development, especially in view of achieving internationally agreed upon development agendas. African countries recognize the importance of these partnerships for enhancing and consolidating the growth of the continent.
As such, many African states have benefitted from the traditional North-South cooperation, through the sharing of experiences, technical assistance as well as cooperation on the part of other developing and emerging countries. It is along such lines that the Anti FGM campaign has been able to pick up the much necessary momentum after years of lip service.
Whereas the campaign against FGM has had a long history, it has for a long time been confined to board rooms and workshops with little by way of targeted grassroots campaigns. For instance as recent as 2010 Kenya did not have an official policy addressing FGM and relied upon Presidential decrees. However with the Anti-FGM policy put in place, 2011, there has been considerable investment of resources and strategies from the North.
How did this happen? A number of factors have been combined to bring about the necessary north-south cooperation. For instance in the south, Kenya like many African countries had for years grossly underfunded many women centered development priorities. The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, changed the scene. This supreme law called for an end to harmful cultural practices and was quickly followed by the enactment of the Anti FGM act. The legislation provided for an institution- The Anti-FGM Board- with the mandate to undertake public education on the dangers and legal consequences of carrying out the practice, but which unfortunately remained underfunded to meet the demand of its mandate.
In the north, the international immigration crisis brought FGM to the doorstep of the developed north. Waves of migrants from nations that practice FGM began arriving and settling and with it brought their deep-rooted cultural practices such as FGM. Whereas the developed north had hitherto been known to only condemn the practice, the changing dynamics required a more proactive approach both home and abroad.
It is in this context that a new impetus to fund anti-FGM work at the grassroots by organizations based in the north came about. Notably the Guardian Media UK launched an EndFGM Academy, 2015, in some of the FGM affected Africa countries (Kenya, The Gambia and Nigeria). The Guardian pioneered in identifying and training of young activists on the use of both new and traditional media to end FGM.
The use of media has been a powerful tool in influencing perceptions and educating people about the realities of FGM. The media has also broadened the engagement platform, reach and visibility of anti FGM efforts. The use of activists has on the other hand built upon young people who are playing a leadership role in the community and have what it takes to be future opinion leaders and shapers in their respective communities.
Similarly ,The Girl Generation, an Africa led global movement aimed at ending FGM within a generation, focuses on building a critical mass for change which helps unlock regional, national and international commitments to increase resources that can sustain and scale up efforts to end the practice. Among its approaches is the use of ambassadors, youth networks and social change communication-(transforming social norms underpinning the practice of FGM) which is in effect causing a good trickle-down effect of reaching practicing communities.
The use of networks has created much needed synergy and momentum required in the campaign to end FGM while the use of ambassadors has built upon individuals who have scaled up FGM campaign to national and global attention.
Among other notable strategies include Alternative rites of Passage (ARPs) spearheaded by AMREF Health, in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. ARPs allows a girl to safely transition to womanhood without undergoing the emotional and physical risk of FGM whilst preserving a communities’ culture. ARPs has been adopted by the United Nations as a model of eradicating FGM.
Another approach which has registered significant efforts and currently being undertaken in Djibouti, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Somalia, The Gambia, and Mauritania is Tostan. Tostan is a human rights Community Empowerment Program that allows community members to draw their own conclusions about FGM and lead their own movements for change. The program also focuses on community public declarations which are critical in the process for abandonment and necessary for building critical mass, eventually leading FGM to becoming a thing of the past.
Elsewhere, 28TooMany is consistently working on research around Africa where FGM is practiced (28countries) and across the diaspora. They also advocate for the global eradication of FGM and work closely with other organizations in the violence against women sector. Research and data is a crucial element that tactically guides Anti-FGM strategies and campaign.
UNICEF/UNFPA joint program accelerates abandonment in Africa and Arab countries where it works by using a human rights- based and culturally sensitive approach. The program also supports health and protective services for those adversely affected. Initiated in 2007, the joint program aims at strengthening National Policies/legislations, training health practitioners on FGM response and care, public declarations of abandonment by communities and declarations by both religious and traditional leaders disowning any religious requirement of FGM.
Together with Member States, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 67/146: Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilations. Co- sponsored by 150 countries, the resolution underscored the fact that the practice of FGM/C is a violation of the human rights of women and girls and called for stronger global efforts to end it.
FGM sometimes threatens the lives of girls and women, thereby violating their human rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa explicitly recognize that practices harmful to women such as FGM are violations of human rights.
The Africa Union 4th Conference of Ministers of Social development launched a campaign to End Child Marriage in its member states. The campaign has already been launched in 12 out of the 15 member countries. It is important to note that in most communities, the practice of FGM more often than not precedes early/forced marriage.
What these efforts have in common is the support in terms of resources and financing that is coming from the north with campaigns being led by local activists many of whom are beginning to gain the attention for their efforts in eradicating FGM in their countries
The North- South cooperation has resulted in accelerated efforts to end FGM evident in the recent ban of FGM in countries like Nigeria and The Gambia. A drop in FGM overall statistics in some countries, Public Community declarations are some of the tangible results that can be recorded. Non tangible results can be quantified in the increased reportage of FGM cases, a surge in involvement of young people and institutions in Anti-FGM Campaigns, increased awareness, launch of regional campaigns such as the Saleema Campaign in Sudan, Not in My Name campaign in Sierra Leone and the global He for She campaign.
One of the biggest setback in eliminating FGM is medicalization of the practice. Currently more than 18% of all FGM is performed by healthcare providers and the disturbing trend is only increasing. Medicalization of FGM wrongfully legitimates the procedures and can contribute to the damaging perception that FGM is right. FGM practice no matter who carries them on still represent a major human rights violations. In effect, some governments have passed bills that include revoking of licenses by doctors and nurses that perform FGM, Kenya being a good example.
Prevalence of FGM
It is estimated that about 100-140 million women worldwide have undergone FGM, with an additional three million girls and women undergoing the procedure every year. FGM is prevalent in about 28 African countries and among a few minority groups in Asia. Prevalence varies significantly from one country to another. For example, the prevalence rate is 92% in Mali, compared to 28% in Senegal. In addition, there are many immigrant women in Europe, Canada, and the United States who have undergone FGM. It is estimated that 15% of all circumcised women have undergone the most severe form of FGM: infibulation, which involves the stitching and narrowing of the vaginal opening-approximately 80% to 90% of all circumcisions in Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan are of this type.
Twelve industrialized countries that receive immigrants from countries where FGM is practiced include; Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States have passed laws criminalizing the practice. In Australia, six out of eight states have passed laws against FGM. In the United States, the federal government and 17 states have criminalized the practice.
One country France has relied on existing criminal legislation to prosecute both practitioners of FGM and parents procuring the service
TOGETHER TO END FGM