Equality Now discusses steps to address FGM in Banjul, The Gambia

By: Momodou Janneh

Equality Now, an international human rights organization, held a side event on the of Multi-Sectoral Approach to address Female Genital Mutilation. The panel discussion was centered on a report of research undertaken by the organization in 11 African countries on the use of the approach to address FGM. Equally, some lessons learned from the change makers.

The side event was organized on the 24th October 2022 in Banjul, The Gambia in the margins of the 73rd Ordinary Session of the ACHPR.

Speaking during her presentation, Honorable Commissionner Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie, ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights highlighted the significance of the event to discuss on the status of Women’s Rights in Africa with a focus on FGM and how their commission is handling matters relating to FGM. She highlighted that the establishment of the mechanism is in line with their commission’s firm determination to promote the rights of women and girls.

And to combat discrimination and injustice women continue to experience on the continent.

“According to World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated two hundred million women and girls worldwide have been subjected to FGM of which hundred and twenty-five million of those two hundred million live in Africa. WHO estimated that, a hundred to one hundred and forty million girls and women worldwide are currently leaving with the consequences of FGM,” Mrs. Sallah-Njie said.

Going further, she eluded that in Africa it is estimated that 92 million girls from the ages of ten (10) and above have undergone FGM. Commissioner Janet said: “According to Human Rights Council, FGM constitute human rights violation against women and girls that is mainly motivated and perpetuated by gender inequality and discrimination. Social norms, that jeopardize recognition and enjoyment of the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she stressed.

She encouraged that, advocates of FGM should continually try to have their data and evidence to inform programs and policies written for adolescent girls. “We all have a role to play, but evidence-based advocacy in terms of the numbers that have gone through the harmful effects and impacts,” she echoed.

Dr. Satang Nabaneh, underscored the importance of the event. Her interventions focus more on the Maputo Protocol. Dr. Satang said: “Despite the very nice laws, we have high prevalence rate of FGM. I am from The Gambia, we have a law that criminalizes FGM since 2015 and recently with a statistic we have less than a 2 perfect drop.”

She highlighted that, her reflection will be much centered on the Maputo Protocol, a provision which she said is quite unique globally. It also very much reflects the work that was done in relation to making the Maputo Protocol one that reflects the realities of women and girls in the continent. “Part of reflecting also is acknowledging the stipulated especially which centered on the Maputo Protocol which we know we still have some countries to go. But the majority of African countries has ratified the Maputo Protocol and so that means that day they are obligated to make sure that in terms of Article 5 is aligned with their national laws as well.

Part of what comes out of it is that, majority of the African countries we have FGM practice in over 29 African countries and the majority of those African countries have a law that criminalizes FGM whether it’s a stand-alone law,” Dr. Nabaneh said.

Caroline Lagat, Program Officer, Equality Now, gave an overview of how a multi-sectoral approach has been adopted in certain countries regarding how they address gender and FGM. Given examples from Kenya, Caroline said: “We have an Anti-FGM steering committees. So, we do have a national coordinating body called the Anti-FGM board, but we also have the same structures at lower level and community level. The Anti-FGM steering committee bring together all stakeholders, it can be government officials at the local level, community level, as well as community leaders, teachers, and everyone. That have encountered FGM in their work so that they can coordinate how they respond and also awareness raising.”

The organization is established to advance the rights of women and girls around the world. Their campaign focuses on four programmatic areas: legal equality, ending sexual violence, ending harmful practices and ending sexual exploitation, with a cross-cutting focus on the special needs of adolescent girls.

The event took place at the Sir. Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center.

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