MPs Can End FGM!
The Pan African Parliament and UNFPA held a two day workshop in Sandton, South Africa to identify the role of parliamentarians in ending female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages. Ninety three (93) people attended the meeting, representing 47 countries in Africa.
The official opening was moderated by Mrs Wawa Dahab Josiane, Senior Clerk of PAP. A welcome address was given by Hon Haidara Aichata Cissé, Chairperson of the PAP Women's Caucus. She advocated for laws to be passed in order to protect women and girls in Africa. She said, “governments have a huge role in formulating policies and coming up with laws to protect women”. She noted that FGM causes prejudice and should not be practiced whether in private or in public.
Ms Justine Coulson, UNFPA Deputy Regional Director for UNFPA Eastern and Southern Africa thanked participants for taking time to come together in trying to end FGM and child marriages. According to a recent UNFPA report, “3 million girls are at risk of FGM in Africa alone while about 14 million girls under the age of 18years are married every year world- wide”. This translates to 39,000 girls being married every day. An average of 2 million under-age girls give birth in Africa every year.
H.E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, President of the Pan-African Parliament declared the meeting officially open. MPs need to get involved in such discourse because they can end FGM. He noted that such meetings allow parliamentarians and international organizations to join hands and come up with ideas to tackle the challenges of FGM and child marriages; and reiterated the importance of men attending such meetings – they are the perpetrators of child marriages. The PAP is determined to come up with strategies to eliminate FGM and child marriages.
FGM: what do we know?
The session was to strengthen the knowledge of PAP women caucus on FGM and was moderated by Hon. Haidara Aichata Cisse, Chairperson of the PAP Women’s Caucus. She spoke passionately on the importance of understanding the effects of FGM and child marriages. Ms Seynabou Tall, Regional Gender and GBV Adviser UNFPA ESARO highlighted the objectives and expected results of the meeting. According to WHO, FGM is defined as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons”. There is no consensus on the origins of FGM and there are NO benefits to it. All the 4 categories of FGM have serious immediate and long term consequences.
Speaking on Human Rights Violations, Mr Idrissa Ouedraogo, Gender Adviser UNFPA WCARO explained the laws that protect women’s rights. These were the right to life and physical integrity, including freedom from violence; the right to be free from all forms of discrimination against women; the right to health; the rights of the child. In addition to recognizing that FGM violates these fundamental rights, numerous instruments establish that Governments have a duty to prohibit the practice and protect women and girls vulnerable to the practice.
Speaking on child marriages and giving an update on the AUC Campaign, Dr Asha Mohamud, Youth Adviser UNFPA ESARO acknowledged that many stakeholders and organs are in place to protect women from human rights violation. Of interest are the global and regional commitments on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Organizations. Child marriages in Africa are still being practiced although data reflect a reduction. For years, the drivers for child marriages have remained poverty; gender inequality and lack of empowerment for girls; Tradition and cultural practices; insecurity, especially in times of conflict; limited or lack of quality education; and lack of adequate legal framework.
“there is no benefit of FGM and should not be performed under any circumstances!” - Dr. Seynabou Tall, UNFPA.
Experiences from the Regions
This session was moderated by Hon. Hasna Houmed Bilil. Ms Florence Gachanga, Ms Roselidah Ondeko and Ms Tsehay Gette representing UNFPA ESARO opined that “FGM was slowly coming to an end”. The main challenge was that most of the girls are being sneaked across borders for the practice. A possible action is to intensify cross border discussions and limit the activities of cross border to end FGM.
From WCARO, Ms Meike Madeleine Keldenich, UNFPA Technical Specialist FGM emphasized the need for parliamentarians, civil society, UN and youth groups to work together in a region with some of the highest prevalence countries in the world. She said, “FGM can be eliminated in one generation and change is already happening everywhere”. She encouraged participants to amplify the voices of those who are abandoning the practice of FGM.
Ms Enshrah Ahmed, UNFPA ASRO Regional Gender Advisor called on taking action to End Child Marriages and allow girls to fully enjoy their childhood free from the risk of child marriage. She said this will enable them to experience healthier, safer and more empowered life transitions. They will be in control of their own destiny, including making choices and decisions about their sexuality, relationship formation/marriage, and childbearing.
“we have enough MPs to make a difference. I want to be a champion to end FGM!” - Hon. Jacqueline Amongin.
The Role of Parliamentarians in Stopping FGM in Africa!
Participants went into group discussions to discuss the roles parliamentarians can play in eliminating FGM and Child Marriage in their countries and the region as a whole.
TAKE ACTION: We Can End FGM in this Generation!
Day two of the Pan African Parliament and UNFPA’s two-day meeting in Sandton, South Africa continued to explore critical actions that parliamentarians can take in ending female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages in their countries and Africa at large.
The Role of Parliamentarians in Ending FGM: Identifying opportunities for regional and national collaboration between UNFPA and PAP
Following up from day two, each group reported back on the roles parliamentarians can play in effectively ending FGM and child marriages. The groups were formed according to language blocs and were represented by members of various countries. The common clusters of roles that came out from the groups were – policy advocacy; legislation; community engagement; resource allocation; and implementation of laws.
Areas of commitment by parliamentarians:
Parliamentarians cast a vote on their areas were of commitment per country. They were to vote for a maximum of three priority areas for commitment and collaboration. After the polling the following were the results:
About three key actions were resolved under each of the five areas listed above.
1. To ask oral questions in parliament on the implementation of existing laws. Ask Government to report on how they have enforced national and international laws on ending FM and child marriage
2. Share good practices among countries on how laws have been implemented
3. Set up M&E framework
1. Identify and promote alternative rites of passage to communities instead of FGM
2. Develop initiatives to strengthen actions against cross border FGM
3. Every MP should communicate or organize events to engage their constituencies to discuss issues on stopping FGM and child marriages
1. Present a statement of FGM and child marriage on the floor of PAP in October 2016 towards a resolution of PAP to be sent to AU and state parliaments
2. Propose specific FGM laws or amendments in countries without legislation
3. Harmonize laws at regional level
1. Undertake high level policy advocacy (targeting relevant ministries and heads of strategic departments)
2. Target male parliamentarians to gain support for PAP undertaking advocacy against FGM
3. Conduct advocacy activity for all countries to ratify and sign the Malabo protocol
4. Conduct advocacy activity for all countries to remove reservations, ratify and sign and Maputo protocols to make them more effective
1. Have an FGM specific resource allocation in the budgets of the Ministries responsible for gender, children, women, justice and other strategic ministries to make impact
2. Elaboration of specific projects to help mobilise resources for the campaign against FGM and child marriage
3. Develop a comprehensive regional plan to mobilise resources for the campaign against FGM in Africa.
Vote of Thanks
Ms Seynabou Tall, Gender Adviser UNFPA ESARO, presented the conclusions and way forward regarding the partnership UNFPA and PAP on the elimination of FGM and child marriages. She explained the importance of implementing the action plans at national and regional levels.
The Vice-Chairperson of the Women’s Caucus, Hon. Gloriose Nimenya thanked all participants for sparing time to come to the meeting and join efforts in trying to eliminate FGM and child marriages. She encouraged all participants not to tire in fighting for women’s rights.
Hon. Safia Elmi Djibril, the second Vice-President of PAP also encouraged participants to continue in the fight against abuse. She emphasized on the need for all women to take initiative in ending FGM and child marriages.
Official closing by the Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament
Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, fourth Vice-President of PAP thanked all participants for coming together to work towards the end of FGM and child marriages. She appreciated all the women that are standing in the gap to make a difference in the world, particularly in Africa.
Source: by V&V Management Services Ltd, vandvictors.com.