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Mar-09-2012 15:43printcomments

International Women Rise to Action Against Female Genital Mutilation

The following is being released by World Women...

Girls at-risk for FGM at the initiation of a new campaign against FGM in Bashar, Nigeria
Girls at-risk for FGM at the initiation of a new campaign against FGM in Bashar, Nigeria. (PRNewsFoto/World Women)

(NEW YORK) - As the two week long international conference of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women comes to a close on Friday, March 9, 2012, women are charged to fight all forms of violence against women.

During the conference, there were several sessions on female genital mutilation (FGM) also known as female circumcision, including an "End FGM" concert and a call for support of the UN Global Ban against the practice.

"Our goal is to create a solid global network of volunteers, advocates and essential resources that present a united front against female genital mutilation," said Ali Hoban, a conference participant and Advocacy Manager at CAGeM. Many of the conference participants have been genitally mutilated, most of them when they were between 2 and 6 years old.

Despite the fact that there are 16 African countries banning the practice of female genital mutilation, it still continues. Over the last few years however, there have been reports of prosecutions or arrests in cases involving FGM in various African countries, including Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Sierra Leone. In the United States an Ethiopian Immigrant was sentenced to 10 years in prison for circumcising his 2 year old daughter in the bathtub.

In France, where genital mutilation continues despite a relatively vigorous record of prosecution, officials stated that "the government is handing out 100,000 leaflets to schools, and other public services explaining the health and legal risks and providing information on support services for victims."

In Britain, which outlawed the procedure in 1985, but where hundreds of girls are still mutilated each year, some schools are instituting programs by which "teachers there would soon be trained to detect victims of female circumcision and pupils at risk" said Lynette Parvez, of Kelmscott School in London. This is considered an important safety valve.

In Italy, the President of the Association of Moroccan Women MP, has spoken out against FGM "because unfortunately we have noticed that the practice has anything but ceased" since such operations were prohibited in 2006.

In the Netherlands, a government minister has proposed that parents planning to take at-risk children to their countries of origin be made to sign a statement acknowledging that FGM is a crime, thus enabling prosecution if they do not comply.

In 2011 a working paper by CAGeM, the International Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation, international efforts towards FGM-free villages are highlighted including the thousands of successful projects initiated against FGM. The projects are joint initiatives between CAGeM, government bodies, and other NGOs with the objective of eliminating the social pressure to perform FGM by fostering a socio-cultural environment, conducive to the abandonment of the practice through education, messages in the media, and supportive policies.

CAGeM which is largely run by physicians is completely volunteer-supported. Volunteer Manager, Jelcia Suriel said "we recruit volunteers that want to be part of something greater than themselves. This campaign is unique in its focus on health education rather than activism".

Dr. Bintu Adamu a spokesperson for the campaign said "We cannot make a community publicly denounce a tradition of several thousand years unless they know exactly how it is harming them. For this reason we focus on one-on-one interactions over large community events. The decision to abandon FGM is as much a personal one as it is a communal one."

Last year, the projects were successfully initiated in 382 villages in West Africa and are currently being initiated in 38 more in villages across the remainder of Africa. CAGeM recently established an office in New York to raise awareness and support at-risk girls in immigrant communities in the US that practice FGM.

"Our goal is to have an educational workshop in schools in all 50 states by the end of the year" said Kassandra Zambrano, an awareness coordinator.

Currently the campaign trains healthcare providers in the US on the clinical management of FGM victims. With US volunteers and Soraya Mire, a survivor of FGM and an activist whose appearance on Oprah brought a lot of international attention to the subject, they celebrated the International Day of Zero-Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation on February 6th, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. Although the day was marked by several groups internationally, they were the only organization to celebrate the date with an event in the US.

"We reached out to the US Department of State to mark the date" said communications coordinator, Iyeba Maclayton, "but they could not attend due to scheduling difficulties and instead released a press statement". US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said "FGM/C became a federal crime in the United States in 1997, but the procedure persists in some communities. Every government has an obligation to protect its citizens from such abuse."

SOURCE World Women

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