“Fear of the upcoming knife”: Toward Ending Mutilation in Uganda

On April 14, 2022, in Kampala, I’ll have the great pleasure of seeing Hilda Twongyeirwe again, co-editor with Violet Barungi of UnCUT/VOICES’ book, Taboo. Voices of Women in Uganda on Female Genital Mutilation (2015). An expanded version with new contributions to FemRite’s collection called Beyond the Dance, Taboo is, in the words of Professor Joy C Kwesiga, Vice Chancellor of Kabale University, “part case study and part literary art [whose] down-to earth approach demystifies … [the] subject by representing the points of view of both victims and ‘executors'” (from the back cover).

The introduction by Rebecca Salonen (below) offers an edifying glimpse into the inspiration that led Mary Karooro Okurut, founder of FemRite and former cabinet minister (in the office of the Prime Minister), to pen an autobiographical novel devoted entirely to the excision theme. Her explicit aim? To end the ‘torture’.

Mary Karooro Okurut. The Switch. Kampala: FemRite, 2016.

The Switch is a thriller. Its Foreword by UNFPA Country Representative Esperance Fundira reminds us that “story-telling is a powerful tool … to mobilize citizens against … injustice,” (3) and FGM counts as a profound violation of human rights. A kidnapping opens the tale: Daisy, the beloved only child of Chelimo, the Minister of Culture, is seized, not for ransom, but to be excised by force in a gesture of revenge and hubris. Her captor claims leadership of a society to maintain cultural cohesion by opposing governmental efforts to stop the cutting in Kapchorwa. On learning of her daughter’s capture, the Minister grows wild with anxiety but also resolve that her offspring be spared the travails excision had visited on her, and while the search is on, Chelimo takes stock of biological facts and psychological challenges. Among her misfortunes due to the knife are a still-born child, vesico-vaginal fistula, excruciating pain of intercourse, and a broken marriage to an upright man who only gradually finds his wife’s handicaps more than he can bear.

From FemRite’s Facebook page. Accessed 7 April 2022.

Rebecca’s Salonen’s ‘Introduction’ to Taboo describes the real-life model for the heroine, Chelimo.

Rebecca Salonen, Introduction to Taboo. Voices of Women in Uganda on Female Genital Mutilation

Even if you are involved in international female genital mutilation activism, you probably have not heard much about FGM in Uganda. Among the 28 African countries where female ‘circumcision’ is performed, Uganda stands near the bottom of the FGM-prevalence list, around 5 % or less. This does not mean that female genital mutilation in Uganda is not a problem, but only that the Pokot, Tepeth, and Sabiny (Sebei), out of Uganda’s 50-plus indigenous ethnic groups, practice FGM. These three groups live in remote and seasonally inaccessible regions on the eastern border with Kenya, where there are few casual visitors. Until recently, FGM was the lot of every girl in these societies, however, and the type of excision was very severe. Depending on the inspiration, ability, or eyesight of the circumciser, all of the external genitals are traditionally cut away. Most other Ugandans are horrified by the practice, and Parliament enacted the Prohibition of FGM act in 2010, so the public ‘circumcision’ ceremonies are disappearing, and the cutting is now being done secretly, in the dark.

I learned about female genital mutilation in Uganda almost by accident. In 1998, while I was visiting Kampala, a friend introduced me to Hon. Jane Frances Kuka, a Sabiny who was then Minister of Gender. She had famously escaped being circumcised by staying in school. When her opposition to the practice became too troublesome, in 1988 the elders bought rope and planned to tie her up and mutilate her by force. She escaped to Kampala and returned by helicopter with the Minister for Women, who suggested the elders give up compulsory FGM. Later, Hon. Kuka was elected to the women’s seat for Kapchorwa in Parliament.

Hon. Kuka invited me to visit her home town of Kapchorwa during the 1998 ‘circumcision’ season to attend Culture Day, a festival created by Uganda’s Reproductive, Educative and Community Health (REACH) project which had been launched in 1996 by the United Nations Population Fund to combat female genital mutilation. In 1998, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, arrived by helicopter at the mountaintop town. Standing in the bed of a truck, he delivered a speech to the thousands of Sabiny people gathered at the Boma Grounds for Culture Day, urging them to abandon their fiercely defended practice of female ‘circumcision’. Others spoke as well, including leading elders, some of whom stood in front of the president and, to our surprise but apparently not to the president’s, announced their determination to continue their traditional practices. Later that evening, visitors and Kapchorwa dignitaries gathered at a celebration dinner. After listening to some congratulatory speeches, a community leader rose. Looking squarely at the visitors, he said forcefully that the Sabiny did not need anyone from New York or London to come to Kapchorwa and tell them what to do about female ‘circumcision’.

That night, locked into our compound near Sipi, we lay awake in our beds hearing the sounds of ‘circumcision’ in the darkness: Feet marching on the roads, bells and whistles, singing and drumming that lasted all night long. At breakfast the next morning, as we looked out at the magnificent Sipi Falls plunging into the chasm below our lodge, our hosts told us how many girls had been cut at dawn. We wondered if any had died. The same ceremonies would continue for weeks, long after we had returned to our safe homes in the West. There was nothing we could have done. We were the people from New York and London whose views were irrelevant.

After returning home, a few of us formed the Godparents Association. We raised the funds to pay school fees for Sabiny girls (later also for Pokot girls, who are also at risk for ‘circumcision’) to help them stay in school and avoid being cut, as Hon. Kuka had done. Over the years, we have sponsored hundreds of girls in secondary schools, and a number have completed university studies and master’s degrees. All of them have avoided FGM, defied cultural expectations, and taken new paths in life that do not require them to be cut. These are the young women who will help to transform their culture.

The book you are reading is a collection of the stories of girls and women who have firsthand knowledge about female ‘circumcision’ in Kapchorwa and elsewhere. Each story is valuable because it is authentic and unique. Although FGM is no longer the secret that once seemed unbelievable to people in the West, there are many hidden aspects that underlie the persistence of the practice. Some of these are revealed by the women who speak in these pages – witchcraft, coercion, intoxication. Unlike the young women we have sponsored, most of whom have hair-raising tales about escaping forced ‘circumcision’, many of the women in these pages (and even the circumcisers) did not have a choice and were forced into FGM.

We do not know exactly how many Ugandan women have suffered female genital mutilation or how many hundreds of girls are being cut every year. No census taker goes door to door in the mountains or pursues the migrating Pokot pastoralists to count the ‘circumcised’ women in their households. Eventually, once the aid funding is exhausted and the papers are written, the people from New York and London always go home. But the Sabiny will remain on Mt. Elgon, coping with the divisions and differences among them since their ancient practice became of interest to outsiders. Only they can stop female genital mutilation on the mountain.

Congratulations, Khady! UnCUT/VOICES’ author is honored by WAAF (Women’s Action against FGM Japan)

WOMEN’S ACTION AGAINST FGM, JAPAN (WAAF)
2–4–12 Rokkodai, Matsudo, Chiba 270–2203, Japan
E-mail: waafjapan@hotmail.com
URL: http://www.jca.apc.org/~waaf/

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THANK YOU to Mitsue Ohi, Nina Raj and the members of WAAF for their welcome recognition of Khady’s humanitarian initiative.

Today’s email delivered good tidings. The front page of the newsletter published by the Japanese anti-FGM association announces a prize for Khady’s La Palabre.

Although Japan may seem distant to both Africa and Europe, we’ve had each other’s backs for more than a decade. An early member of WAAF, Sachiko Mitsumori joined FORWARD in Germany where she was active for several years before returning to Hiroshima. She met Khady, president of the EuroNet FGM, when our 2012 annual meeting took place in Frankfurt and then introduced me to her group in Tokyo. In fact, at the Inter-African Committee triennial conference in Dakar, Senegal, in 1997, I had first been made aware of a Japanese delegation, but it would be another fifteen years before our friendship bloomed. In the meantime, professional links have evolved. For instance, Sachiko Mitsumori, who has published the first book on Alice Walker in Japanese, contributed a chapter to my book Waging Empathy on Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992). Walker’s translator into Japanese, Yumiko Yanagizawa is also a member of WAAF and provided an interview for my preface. Khady, meanwhile, was translated into Japanese — and 17 more languages.

Khady’s book in English from UnCUT/VOICES Press is available on Amazon: Blood Stains. A Child of African Reclaims Her Human Rights. Trans. Tobe Levin. 2010.

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Founded in 2006 by Khady Koita and Els Leye, La Palabre, the awardee, aims to defend the human rights of vulnerable populations, especially children and women, with emphasis on education and training. It opposes inequality, racism, and violence including FGM.

Khady and Els Leye founded La Palabre https://lapalabre.wixsite.com

Among its first moves on the route to equality, it founded a school in 2007 and, to assure street children a better future, it welcomed them to the Mame Diarra Diallo centre, launched in 2008. Mame Diallo Centre also shelters women and girls who have suffered violence, thereby joining a growing number of safe houses for those courageous souls who flee excision. Its residents benefit not only from refuge but also psychological and legal counseling as well as professional training. In 2016, AIME, L’Association International de Mobilisation pour l’Égalité enhanced its support. Visit <aime-ong.org>

Keep up the good work, Khady! You’re an inspiration to us all.

“Where can I go? How can I flee?” Escaping FGM. Mark your calendar: 26 April 2022, 7-8:30 Eastern

Here’s your chance to view Giselle Portenier’s prize-winning film about a Tanzanian project that spares girls from the blade and works to end FGM once and for all.

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I’ve seen In the Name of Your Daughter at least four times in various venues, including at Harvard and in London. Invited by Sarah Champion MP and Preet Gill MP, the cineaste Giselle Portenier introduced her film in the Jubilee Room of the House of Commons on 7 February 2019. Announcing the event as a “Parliamentary Screening of ‘Defying the Cutting Season’,” Westminster attracted prominent NGOs in the UK whose representatives were exhilarated by the visual history of a challenging and successful intervention. I highly recommend it. The April 26, 2022, online screening, hosted by Susan McLucas of Healthy Tomorrow and Sini Sanuman in Mali, includes a discussion afterward with ample time for Q & A.

Members of the audience in London, l to r, Dr. Phoebe Abe and Jennifer Obaseki, Solicitor, both anti-FGM activists.

When I first lectured on FGM in 2006 as a Visiting Scholar at Brandeis, Susan McLucas attended my presentation. I was then in the planning stage before launching UnCUT/VOICES Press which has enjoyed Susan’s total support since its founding. She notes about Portenier’s film: “In the Name of Your Daughter is inspiring and thoughtful and we would love your help letting people know about it.”

Nurse/midwife Comfort I. Ottah, former chair of FORWARD and a source of unwavering support over three decades. In the film Warrior Marks by Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar (1993), Comfort is shown demonstrating against a Brent Councillor’s proposal to legalize FGM in the UK.

The screening takes place on April 26 at 7 pm. You can sign up here: tinyurl.com/FGMfilm.

Here is the trailer to the film.

In London, l to r, author Hilary Burrage, filmmaker Giselle Portenier, and Tobe Levin von Gleichen (UnCUT/VOICES) with an unknown participant standing before a door labelled Members (of Parliament).

The first on the right, Susan McLucas attended a strategy session — on FGM as a Patriarchal Inscription on Women’s Bodies — at Harvard’s Hutchins Center on 12 December 2019.

Healthy Tomorrow is a local group that supports the work of Sini Sanuman, an NGO in Mali that fights FGM. You are cordially invited to contact Susan if you’d like to participate in her group’s activities to stop FGM. You can be assured of a hearty welcome.

Susan McLucas, Healthy Tomorrow

617-776-6524, cell: 617-501-9125

StopExcision.net

14 William St, Somerville, MA 02144

More on genital wounding and child brides under patriarchy

In 2016 in the Chapel of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, an exhibition of Nigerian paintings and sculpture enticed viewers to learn more about FGM through a dignified medium — art. Mainly by male artists, the pieces honor the teaching by Joy Keshi Walker who coached art students in Lagos to understand clitoridectomy. The picture you see displayed third from the left, “What If I Refuse?” by Manasseh Imonikebe, evokes social pressure to conform and fantasizes an option to resist.

But I ask: can anyone resist? Can a child refuse marriage? Can a girl evade ablation? Only with unusual courage, at significant cost, and a wellspring of maturity far beyond her years.

After all, even if insisting on delayed consummation until the first menses, societies that permit pre-pubertal female marriage don’t believe in childhood, not unlike medieval Europe where childhood didn’t exist either, nor did rape. We need only remember the “droit du seigneur” or “the right/rite of the first night” when the baron could ‘deflower’ brides before serf-grooms could. I mention this to obviate Entfremdung, that is, alienation impeding empathy that requires similarity. To be clear: customs in phallocratic African societies resemble patriarchal traditions elsewhere.

Thus, childhood, the concept of an innocent, protected, and naïve phase of life, is a modern invention that emerged in embryo post-Renaissance in Europe. Boys, too, remained under the patriarch’s thumb, and all the more so, girls.

Why? Due to the gift of a vulva and its ability to create life. In my view, the patriarchy’s fear of autonomous female sexuality magnified by conflation of females with property under the usurped governance of males underwrites both customs – child marriage and FGM.

INFIBULATION STONE by Alloysius Osagie. Marble and metal.

 INFIBULATION STONE evokes in no certain terms a European ‘tradition’ whose remnant can be seen in official Museums of Torture, namely the ‘chastity belt’. The whiteness of the stone highlights gender as a concept while it mutes race, thereby striving to include all women independent of differing hue. Classified by WHO as type 3 FGM, infibulation is the most severe form of genital assault and makes sense only in a context of gender inequality. Although vaginal stitching is the dominant form of FGM in the Horn of Africa, it is practiced by certain minorities in Nigeria.

Early child marriage linked to FGM: the one illuminates the other

This is a page from https://oxfordfeministepress534941118.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/igs-exhibition-report-fgm-final.pdf

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During the lockdown in Germany, we entertained no houseguests. As restrictions eased, we emerged from isolation, but for a time every discussion stood out as exceptional. A case in point: two weeks ago, a friend who collects unusual things had just purchased a dagger from Sotheby’s, showed us a photo, and praised the item’s bejewelled, curved and polished handle which shone, indeed, with exquisite grace. Normally, I would know nothing about daggers, but for my speech for the Commission on the Status of Women on 15 March 2022 I had read a book in which these rapiers play a significant role. The (auto)biography of Yemen’s first successful suit by a ten-year-old divorcée — I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (1) — taught me to distinguish social classes by the materials in dagger-handles. On seeing our friend’s, I guessed it was the most noble substance, ivory, as Nujood had informed me. Wrong. “The best,” he told us, “is rhinoceros horn.” (No matter which, of course, both are forbidden under endangered species rules.) Since our friend’s purchase predated wildlife protection — it was an antique — and would be displayed out of the reach of children, we let the possible violation pass.

The subject remained the weapon, however, which, with varied handles, adorns the outfits of Yemeni (and Omani) gentlemen, even today, and even if mainly symbolic, the symbolism is unequivocal. The scabbard, another word for sheath, which in turn is a vagina, brings into view human rights and gendered implications of such tools. Google ‘etymology of the vagina’ and what do you find? “LATIN. Sheath, scabbard. Late 17th century.” Or, as even more precisely defined at http://www.etymonline.com, vagina (n.) marks the “sexual passage of the female from the vulva to the uterus,” 1680s, medical Latin. As the possessor of such a passage, I found this definition startling, because in my mind’s eye, the corridor leads from the cervix into the world and serves to conduct an infant outward, not an invader inward. But given the dimensions of a ten-year-old’s entryway, martial iconography suits the theme.

Wande George. The Ugly Hand that Maims. Oil on Canvas. 1998.

The question no one is asking about societies that habitually practice — and have normalized — child ‘marriage’ (i.e. rape) and FGM (i.e. torture) is how the perpetrators of these crimes can fail to feel ashamed but, instead, experience pride in conforming to patriarchal standards. Yes, these violations occur in high context cultures with certain mores to be praised, as Berhane Ras-Work from Ethiopia, founding president and leader of the Inter-African Committee for a quarter-century, announced in the introduction to an IAC film from the early 1990s, Beliefs and Misbeliefs. Denouncing female genital mutilation, — the term chosen because, from a medical perspective, mutilation is accurate–, Berhane wishes to ensure that differentiation among positive and represensible habits remains clear. Africans, she states, offer the world examples of beneficial behaviors such as infant massage and extensive skin contact between the small child and its mother who transports it on her back or hip. Responsibility for extended family members is also exhibited in remittances from the Diaspora to the home village. But extirpating pleasure points isn’t among the good. Nor is the custom that allows mature men to take child brides.

UnCUT/VOICES’ author, Kameel Ahmady, whose book In the Name of Tradition. Female Genital Mutilation in Iran (2016) pioneered the epidemiology of excision in his homeland, followed with a second volume, Echo of Silence. A Comprehensive Research Study on Early Child Marriage (ECM) in Iran.

Ahmady also contributed a chapter to Behnaz Hosseini’s anthology, Temporary and Child Marriages in Iran and Afghanistan, Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Issues. There we learn that 17% of weddings feature underage brides; that most child marriages take place in Mashhad; and that the nation is home to 14,000 teen widows. This vulnerable population, even before the pandemic, experienced emotional and psychological violence with measurable negative ramifications on health and development, the latter decelerated as girls left school. Lockdowns and impoverishment, diminution of services, and reduction in governmental and non-governmental interventions to increase marriage age and protect young females from use as pawns for patriarchal gratification – all resulted from the pandemic.

Although most articles are in Farsi and hence inaccessible to me, a glance at translated titles Ahmady provides suffices to reveal a human rights abuse. “Marriage in Childhood, Divorce in adolescence” (Shahrvand Newspaper); “Child Marriage, childhood dreams in the adult world” (IRNA); “Childhood Spouse in Iran has quadrupled with increased marriage loan” (VOA); “Fear of the Internet as a reason for young girls’ marriage in Iran!” (Keyhan London); and “Warning over high divorce rates and thousands of widows in Iran” (VOA). (I am indebted to Kameel Ahmady for this list and items in the subsequent paragraph.)

The first two headlines presuppose a readers’ disposition to condemn the custom. Finding the words ‘child’ ‘marriage’ and ‘adult’ lumped together sows discomfort; cognitive dissonance ensues, assuming of course that the reader is an outsider to the culture that approves of adult males taking pubescent and even pre-pubescent girls to bed. Regarding the last three headlines, these reveal motives: increasing the marriage loan incentivized the pre-existing financial transaction; fear of the internet exposes patriarchal strictures on females’ sexuality as does the warning over high divorce rates, divorcees viewed as femmes fatales or women with ‘experience’.

Happily, additional titles expose opposition (and remember, these are all translated from the Persian): early, child marriage is labeled “a form of child abuse” (Hrana); with “One million children as wives in Iran … the phenomenon [is named] child molestation” (Online news). Pulling no punches, the custom is the “Slaughter of a child in domestic slavery!” (IRNA); “35% of marriages in Khorasan Razavi are for children” (ISNA). First person narrative underscores maltreatment: “At age 13, I was forced to marry my cousin” (ISNA); “Little girls say goodbye to school” (Hamshahri Newspaper); “Child spouse, widow and prostitute” (Entekar Newspaper); “Poverty, a key factor in early child marriage” (Health News); “The phenomenon of child miscarriage” (Safe House); “In some provinces, we are faced with the purchase of childhood” (Law Newspaper); “Marrying a 6-month-old in her mother’s womb!” (Borna); “Child marriages are rape of children” (Health News); “Widowed children in second marriage also have no authority to select the second marriage” (Shahraara Online).

Because they reject principles that make child marriage possible, these headlines permit optimism. Yet the custom’s entrenchment emerges from the following revelations. “The legal age limit for marriage in Iran is currently 13 years for girls (and 15 for boys), but the law has many loopholes, such as the father of the bride’s consent or a court order.” Alas, exemptions are widely abused. One headline Ahmady quotes asks, “Why doesn’t the Spouse Child Prohibition Bill” pass into law?

He may as well be asking “why hasn’t FGM already become history?” as leading scholar Hilary Burrage might phrase it. The generic reason? Patriarchy reigns.

NOTES

  1. Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced. Trans. Linda Coverdale. NY: Broadway Books, 2010.
  2. igs-exhibition-report-fgm-final.pdf. Accessed 25 March 2022. https://oxfordfeministepress534941118.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/igs-exhibition-report-fgm-final.pdf

FGM and Child Marriage: COVID-19 made matters worse …

Experts agree: campaigns to end FGM, services to soothe the wounded, and education to change minds shrank under COVID-19 due to diversion of resources in the context of social and financial precarity.

One worthy project exemplifies this trend. Maa Feew in Podor, Senegal, managed in partnership with FORWARD for Women in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, saw its resources dwindle by the (justified) ban on in-person meetings that in turn reduced donations, as these had been solicited at events. A volunteer organization depending on hired freelancers for certain skills, FORWARD (in Germany) relies mainly on the enthusiasm and dedication of unpaid idealists, as do a multitude of associations against FGM that have sprung up in the new millenium. Moneys raised in industrialized nations then pay for services provided to women and girls in less affluent surroundings.

Here you see the poster that advertised our participation in the Commission on the Status of Women 66 NGO Forum on 15 March 2022. Below it I offer excerpts from my talk.

Gratitude to Lois Herman for the flyer.

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Excerpts from Tobe’s introduction: Our panel addresses the effects of the virus and lockdowns on ending abuse of female genitalia and early, child, or forced marriage with attention to the SDG 5.3 that envisions an excision-free world by 2030. To achieve this, “political will, community engagement and targeted investment in changing practices and lives” must be amplified –not diminished or dismantled, as the rerouting of resources during the pandemic did.

And yet, we were finally on the road to success. As the UN noted in 2018, the “global prevalence of FGM has declined nearly one-quarter since 2000 but the rate of progress is insufficient to keep up with population growth, meaning that the number of total cases is expected to continue without additional action” [sdg.iisd.org accessed 13 March 2022]. This means we were doing something right, just not enough of it.

Moreover, in the coming decade, “one-third of births globally will be in the 30 … countries [where FGM remains prevalent], a trend that … requires accelerated progress to protect women and girls from this practice” (ibid.) If, as UNFPA Executive Director Natalaia Kanem notes, the violation of human rights that FGM represents “both reflects and perpetuates the low status of girls and women” (ibid.), empowerment and education hold promise. After all, we have achieved positive change. “Over 25 million people in more than 18,000 communities across 15 countries have disavowed the practice of FGM since 2008” (ibid.) and it has been found that when UNICEF and UNFPA work together, “girls are one-third less likely to undergo FGM than in 1977” (ibid.).

1977 marks my entry into the fray. In July of that year, I read Pauline Caravello’s report in EMMA on infibulation in the Sudan and felt, with Benoîte Groult, that the very knowledge causes pain “au coeur de soi-même” — in your heart — not to mention ‘down there’, too.

Sadly, the pandemic has thrown a monkey-wrench into the works. A web of obstacles preventing advancement has only been strengthened by widespread death and disability due to the illness; in fact, the site manager for the Maa Few project died of COVID due to lack of vaccines. Furthermore, containment measures such as lockdowns, isolation, diversion of funding, school and shelter closings, stressed professionals on the front lines – social workers, clinicians, counselors, and the entire volunteer sector – have enabled those patriarchs enamored of the status quo to continue promoting excision.

What comes next? A renewal of vows to continue confronting FGM until it ends.

INVITATION to a webinar, 15 March, Commission on the Status of Women (UN) on COVID-19 and Advocacy to End FGM and Early Child Marriage (ECM)

Impacts of Climate & COVID on FGM & Child Marriage

Organizers
WUNRN-Women’s UN Report Network
FORWARD for Women (a partner of UnCUT/VOICES Press)

The intersectionalities of impact that climate change and the COVID pandemic have had on women and girls need to be identified to strategically affect policy. The economic dimensions of FGM, linked to climate change and COVID, have not received adequate attention. This Panel brings together science, economics, and experience in the field to explore political will to eliminate FGM and child marriage, as well to evaluate the effects of the health crisis, i.e. the COVID pandemics on all. Case studies and local initiatives have given impetus to reduce FGM and child marriage. Now it is time to identify the intersectionalities of these gendered human rights issues. The contextual social, economic and environmental factors should not be overlooked when tailoring FGM intervention programs.

SPEAKERS include Dr. Lori Post, Professor Hilary Burrage, Lorraine Koonce Farahmand, Esq. and Dr. Tobe Levin von Gleichen. Moderator is WUNRN manager Lois Herman.

Time

Mar 15, 2022 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Webinar ID. 823 1057 4381

To Join the Webinar

Join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device:

Please click this URL to join. https://us02web.zoom.us/w/82310574381?tk=ojF9UO-rhZbVWILkqMt_YSIYy9Z5SCDa1YN81trPC1w.DQMAAAATKhexLRYwUmZiUUtwOFFHMjA2UTZUaUIwcXhRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA&pwd=cWxZWVJuNjc5T1pBaDNWS3U0bTByQT09&uuid=WN_Ms8OOYt0SuWQaDQe-EV8Lw

On December 10, 2019, the ASB (Frankfurt’s first aid squad) donated an ambulance so that FORWARD for Women, e.V. could save women’s and girls’ lives. The charity whose birth owes its launch to a suggestion by the late Efua Dorkenoo OBE in 1998 has been managing a holistic health and education project called Maa Feew for the last two years. Experiencing frequent difficulty in childbirth due to FGM and child marriage in Podor, Senegal, parturient women have been grateful for the service. The vehicle has been transporting an average of 40 sufferers each month to the nearest well-equipped hospital.

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Briefly, the pandemic wounded and killed not only people, including my closest childhood friend, but also amplified obstructions to success in campaigns by bringing to the fore what domestic violence opponents have always stressed: that home can be a site of heightened danger for children and women.

“Domestic violence,” of course, is a euphemism. Although women are known to attack their male partners, the majority of abuse is male on female, so the subject really derives from patriarchal entitlement, and that in turn fuels FGM and child marriage.

Invitation from WUNRN and Bridging Development Gaps. See you on 16 March, 8 p.m. EST

UnCUT/VOICES Press supports Sustaining Development Gaps launched by Dr. Adebisi Adebayo and the Women’s UN Report Network. So learn more about how the current health and economic crises affected girls and women. Register at https://bit.ly/2022CSW

You’re invited! Engaging Men to End FGM, Commission on the Status of Women, 14 March 2022 at 8 a.m. Eastern (2 p.m. CET)

I received this from an association that UnCUT/VOICES enthusiastically supports. Please note: the webinar announced here takes place four hours earlier than a second in which we speak on the impact of COVID-19 on FGM plus child, forced, and early marriage. That poster will follow soon.

On 12 December 2018, speaker on the #CSW66 Parallel Event described below, Mariya Taher (4th from left) participated in a discussion at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard to promote FGM studies.

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From: Xheni Dani <xdani@endfgm.eu>
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2022 at 14:40
Subject: You’re Invited: Engaging Men to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting – #CSW66 Parallel Event
To: Xheni Dani <xdani@endfgm.eu>

Dear Colleagues,

You’re invited to join the Global Platform for Action to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) at our official parallel event during the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW66). 

Recognizing that FGM/C is a social and gendered norm, upheld through complex systems of patriarchy and tradition, our global Call to Actionacknowledges the need to engage boys and men. This live webinar will explore how boys and men are involved in efforts to end FGM/C globally, and what the movement is doing to expand male participation, through a mixture of panel discussion, fireside chat, case study and perspectives from grassroots activists. 

Join us for the conversation!

WHAT:                       Engaging Men to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting  

DATE:                         Monday, March 14, 2022

TIME:                         8:00 to 9:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time (EDT) (e.g. New York, USA)

FORMAT:                   Zoom

REGISTER:                https://bit.ly/EngagingMentoEndFGM

Moderator :

  • Carol Jenkins: President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality, and member of the Board of Directors of Amref Health Africa USA. She is an advocate for human, civil and women’s rights, an award-winning author and Emmy-winning former television journalist.

Speakers include: 

  • Mireille Tushiminina, Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. Gender and Human Rights Branch. United Nations Population Fund
  • Rodrigue Nkwayaya, Champion of Change with AkiDwA/Ireland or Akina Dada wa Africa, national network of migrant women living in Ireland. 
  • Mariya Taher. Co-Founder and US Executive Director of Sahiyo
  • Catherine Cox, Programme Coordinator, Sahiyo – Bhaiyo program
  • Dame NDIAYE, Male Champion, Senegal

Join us on Twitter @GlobalFGMC for the latest news on confirmed speakers. 

We’re looking forward to seeing you during #CSW66!

Yours in solidarity,

Global Platform for Action to End FGM/C
www.actiontoendfgmc.com

Xheni Dani

Policy and Advocacy Coordinator

End FGM European Network 

Mundo B, Rue d’Edimbourg 26, Brussels 1050, Belgium

T: +32 2 893 09 02 / Mob: +32 489 70 92 72

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For International Women’s Day, March 8th: an early Interview with Dr. Asma el Dareer

The photo by Lana Haroun taken on April 8, 2019, shows an unknown Sudanese woman addressing protesters auguring the ouster of Lt. General Omar al Bashir. I’ve borrowed it to illustrate female strength despite debilities infibulation causes.

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On 8 September 1991, Asma and I talked. On 9 April 1990, Africa Watch published on the Sudan: “Threat to women’s status from fundamentalist regime. Dismissals, Arrests and Restrictions on Women’s Activities.” While confirming that “Sudan has a tradition of progressive policies toward female emancipation and participation in society,” the report concluded that “actions of the Sudan government do not yet amount to a wholesale reduction of women to the status of second-class citizens. However, they are an ominous portent. Africa Watch believes … the military government fully intend[s] to reduce the status of women to that of legal minors, and end their active and equal participation in public life.”

In our discussion, Asma and I focussed on the progress Sudanese women had achieved before the military coup and the tensions arising at the time we spoke. As Asma related to me, “If you were to stand in Khartoum’s United Nations or Abu Ginzeer Square at 7 a.m., you would see about 30% of the crowd are women on their way to work. Most would be wearing ample white, cotton or polyester thobes (nine meters bound in the middle to form the outer dress). You would also find a few in Western style and, it is true, growing uniformity of modest dress signals fidelity to Islamic teachings. Yet, regardless of the garment, women have played and continue to play a major role in the public life of the capital.”

Indeed, Sudanese women had been integrated into the public sector working as doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers, parliamentarians, civil servants and more. When asked if she were an exception as a female having completed medical studies, she answered, “No. Among urban Sudanese women I’m not exceptional. After all, the first woman to graduate from university received her medical degree in the nineteen-fifties. Granted, it had not been the rule to send girls to school, but in the early years of the twentieth century, pioneer educator Babiker Badri opened a school for girls, and presently girls comprise 30 to 40% in classrooms from elementary through university.” Asma served as president of the Babiker Badri Scientific Association from 1979-1983, managing a national workshop in 1981 attended by volunteer organizations and civil servants focusing on ending ‘female circumcision’. Government officials in attendance concurred with the thorough, radical recommendations for abolition, the Association having already begun its own “intensive campaign in Khartoum and nearby villages.” The campaign, in Asma’s view, was “magnificent.” The number of those willing to engage to stop all forms of FGM increased to such an extent that the Social Welfare Ministry formed a body in the mid-1980s to regulate activities. This “national committee on traditional practices affecting the health of women and children” became a member of the Inter-African Committee and was strongly represented at plenaries marking the UN End-of-Decade for Women in Nairobi in 1985.

Asma’s own activist research contributed to this outcome. Headhunted by the WHO, Asma had begun to chart the epidemiology of ‘female circumcision’ in 1974 with a modest study of medical students. Expansion of the research was underwritten in 1977 and included 3210 women and 1545 men. Nationwide, she had three objectives. First, to determine prevalence and type of interventions; second, to identify resulting health problems, and third to outline social, religious and political attitudes toward the custom and hence reveal options for eradication.

“The present regime has not interfered with the work of this group,” Asma assured me in 1991. Sadly, that situation proved unsustainable.

Optimistic greetings on International Women’s Day.