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Africa: New Dresses, Youth Action – Ending Female Circumcision

Right now the civil society in Africa is truncated, you have fragmentation

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Africa, Dresses, Youth
FILE - A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads "Stop the Cut" referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

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

Africa, Dresses, Youth
Hundreds of delegates from African governments and campaigners gathered in Senegal this week to discuss how to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Pixabay

“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.

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“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

Africa, Dresses, Youth
Some countries have enacted acts but the enforcement of those instruments for the promotion of women’s and children’s rights — that is missing. Pixabay

“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

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“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)

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African Nations Urge Government to Enforce Fairer Family Laws

The pact, known as the Maputo Protocol, came into force in 2005 and guarantees extensive rights in areas from protection against violence to economic empowerment

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family laws
FILE - A woman protests against underage marriage in Lagos, Nigeria, July 20, 2013. VOA

Women and girls in Africa are still being pushed into forced or early marriages, while those in unhappy unions face discrimination when seeking divorce, campaigners said on Tuesday, urging governments to enforce fairer family laws.

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) — a coalition of 50 groups — said while most nations had committed to a pan-African pact on women’s rights, states had failed to enforce laws relating to marriage, divorce, child maintenance and inheritance.

The pact, known as the Maputo Protocol, came into force in 2005 and guarantees extensive rights in areas from protection against violence to economic empowerment.

Anisah Ari from the Nigeria-based Women Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, a SOAWR member, said while African nations had taken steps in other areas such as tackling sexual violence, family laws were largely being ignored.

family laws
File: Sudanese Women carrying 50kg bag of grains. Wikimedia Commons

“While the Maputo Protocol affirms women’s rights to exercise self-determination and bodily autonomy — free from discrimination, coercion and violence — many African girls and women continue to bear the brunt of discriminatory family laws,” Ari told a news conference.

“For instance, despite the fact that women have a right to inherit their husbands’ properties after death, this is not always assured — leading to protracted legal battles.”

The SOAWR members, which come from 25 African countries, said many nations had enacted progressive family laws in line with the Maputo Protocol, but the laws were not being enforced.

Women’s contribution and access to familial property was rarely recognized during marital disputes, and women often faced an uphill struggle when seeking child maintenance, they added.

family laws
Women wear the Algerian flag during a protest in Algiers, April 26, 2019. VOA

The legally binding pact, lauded as the most progressive human rights instrument for women and girls in Africa, has been signed and ratified by 42 of the African Union’s 55 member states. Three countries — Botswana, Morocco and Egypt — have neither signed nor ratified it.

The SOAWR members — which come from countries such as Tunisia, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — said addressing the protection and rights of women and girls in the family was the integral to the advancement of women.

ALSO READ: Africa: New Dresses, Youth Action – Ending Female Circumcision

“Family laws are key as the family unit is where the socialization of gender roles begins. It is where girls first learn their rights and roles in society,” said Violet Muthiga from Sauti Ya Wanawake, a Kenya-based women’s rights group.

“So if we can intervene at the family level to ensure they are protected and treated fairly, we can change perceptions and curb practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation — all of which happen with the family unit.” (VOA)