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zero tolerance for female genital mutilation

Judy Mintz, UN representative for ICJW, reports on a meeting at the  United Nations Headquarters in New York on February 8, 2016, which was the  International Day of  “Mobilizing to achieve the Global Goals  Through the Elimination of FGM by 2030”. 

The meeting was chaired by  Femi Oke , International Journalist and Victim of FGM

The Keynote Address was given by Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General. He said that h e is working for change and for an end toFMG by 2030  by using governments and legislation, providing legal and medical services, increasing budgets, involving religious leaders, men and boys, and creating a change in culture especially girls’ rites of passage.

New Ways of Thinking:  Focus on Girls Minds and Finally Girls Matter

Dr. Babtunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director

All segments of society must work together on every level-member states (political), religious institutions, medical and legal services, advocates, civil society, and cultural influences.    There must be a commitment to a social change that eliminates FGM at the community/grassroots level.  FGM impacts girls’ lives and violates their human rights.  FGM has become a global problem because of worldwide migration effection millions.

H.E. Mrs. Yohana S. Yembise, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, Indonesia
There are different FGM practices from extreme removal to just “scratching”, which is symbolic and performed by doctors on babies.  There is still demand.  In some countries health care providers perform the female circumcism.  Girls must be protected from these religious beliefs and customs.

Speakers:

Keziah Bianca Oseko , Activist, Kenya
Oseko is a survivor herself and shares her story passionately in local Kenyan communities.

Inna Madja, Singer, France and Mali
Inna spoke of her physical and psychological pain.  She chose to have repair surgery “to get back what was taken from her”.  She uses her music to heal.

Patricia Tobon Yagari , Indigenous Lawyer, Colombia 
FGM is a widespread practice in the indigenous communities in Colombia.    Much education is needed to combat the practice.

Cornelius Williams, UNICEF Associate Director Child Protection, Sierra Leone
It is amazing to him that this topic is being discussed “out loud” in the UN.  He is dedicated to making this issue visible.  There must be a respectful dialogue created in local communities.  Change will only come about when everyone is included.

Statements from UN Woman and WHO representatives:

  • A new rite of passage for girls must be developed.  Why are girls dehumanized while boys are celebrated at this time in their lives?
  • There are no health benefits to FGM but harmful short and long-term results might result (such as infertility, sexual dysfunction, bleeding and infections).
  • Discussions must include males who are often the heads of families.
  • Re-education, laws and dollars are needed.
  • Men must change their attitudes about who they marry and put a value on women who have not been cut. 

“Her Story, Uncut” presented by Equality Now  

The program ended with a very powerful presentation by three “victims” who shared individual stories of their personal journey with FGM.

First girl:
This victim lived in the United States and during one summer vacation with her mom and sister went to Africa.   She was very excited to meet her aunts and grandmother and to learn about her extended family.   For sure she was totally unprepared for what was going to happen to her.   Never did she think that she would experience FMG. Upon her return home, ironically she was faced with a school assignment asking, “What did you do during the summer?”    After going through FGM she explained that she still loved her parents but would never trust them again.   She felt she had no one to protect her.

Second girl:
The next victim was from Egypt.   When she was four years old, she had her external female parts removed. As she grew older, she became curious and started to examine her body.   She was terrified to discover that she was “missing body parts” and questioned her mother as to “why”!   FGM is now illegal in Egypt.

Third girl:
The third story was about a girl whose Kenyan parents would not permit their daughter to be cut.   They insisted on an alternative “rite of passage”.   They wanted to “shift their tradition” saving her from FGM.

The standing ovation, many tears and much emotion were all well deserved!!!

The Campaign Twitter Tag is  #EndFGM