Hundreds of delegates from African governments and campaigners gathered in Senegal this week to discuss how to end female genital mutilation (FGM), which world leaders pledged to eradicate under a set of global goals agreed in 2015.
But the ancient ritual — which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and can cause pain, infertility and death — remains deeply entrenched in many African countries despite years of activism.
Here are some quotes from participants at the summit, which ended Tuesday, on priorities for ending FGM in Africa:
Isatou Touray, Vice President of the Gambia
“What is missing is political will. Some countries have enacted acts but the enforcement of those instruments for the promotion of women’s and children’s rights — that is missing.
“Number two is the weak capacity of civil society. Right now the civil society in Africa is truncated, you have fragmentation. We need to have a strong movement.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of U.N. Women
“One area that I think is a gap is law enforcement. This is a crime. When people do it then they are breaking the law.
“You don’t see prosecutions enough for crimes committed against women in general … from domestic violence to rape. So we need law enforcement to step it up.”
Fatou Ndiaye Deme, Women’s Ministry, Senegal
“What is missing is good coordination. The action also needs to be at the community level. It can’t just be high-level meetings, the community has to be involved.”
Mamadou Traore, Imam, Mali
“The obstacle is the religiosity of the practice. Some religious leaders think it is part of Islam.
“Now that they have seen that there are negative consequences, some imams have asked to medicalize the practice.
We are working with doctors to show that you can’t medicalize it, because you don’t cut this part to heal but to wound.”
Virginia Lekumoisa, survivor and activist, Kenya
“Using the power of the youth is what I feel like other countries are not doing.
“Maybe what makes us stand out [in Kenya] is the fact that we have backed this up with youth action and power from the youth networks, working to end FGM and actually taking action.”
Rugiatu Turay, chairwoman, Forum Against Harmful Traditional Practices, Sierra Leone
“One of the most important things is funding, because you have the willingness.
“We have communities that are now willing to remove the shrine [where FGM happens], but in removing the shrine we also have to put on some kind of fanfare and celebrations. We have to make sure the women will have new dresses. So it’s all about funding.”
Ifrah Ahmen, campaigner, Somalia
“We have the international support and we have international leaders who back us up but this is our issue.
“I think now is the time to ring the bell for African leaders to speak up.” (VOA)