Why FGM is not just a women’s issue

Research done by Sonke Gender Justice, a Johannesburg-based NGO, in addition to international research, has confirmed that working with men and boys to promote gender equality and challenge discrimination has a positive impact on the health of women and girls.

“It is believed that men do not have any responsibility and women are the decision makers for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), yet the reality on the ground traduces a major role of men being involved either directly or indirectly,” Mpiwa Mangneiro, Regional Campaigns and Advocacy Specialist for Sonke Gender Justice, told the African News Agency (ANA) on Friday.

Mangneiro was talking on the sidelines of the 10th Annual Conference on Women’s Rights at the fifth session of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), being held at the Gallagher Conference Centre in Midrand.

The objective of Friday morning’s session, moderated by Gloriose Nimeny, the Deputy Chairperson of the PAP Women’s Caucus, was to help attendees understand the role of men and boys in eliminating FGM.

Speakers, including Mabel Sengendo and Itumeleng Komanyane from Sonke Gender Justice, explained how during fragile and crisis situations, violence against women, including FGM, are likely to escalate due the breakdown of social and protection mechanisms.

More than 200 million girls and women have been mutilated and if trends continue an estimated 86 million young girls worldwide are likely to experience some form of the practice by 2030 with 28 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia all affected.

While 23 countries in Africa have adopted national laws penalising FGM, law enforcement remains the challenge.

Since 2008, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), in partnership with the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) has been at the forefront of accelerating the abandonment of FGM in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria and Somalia.

Strategies include PAP increasing awareness of men in various countries on the issues of FGM, gender inequalities and the empowerment of women.

Justine Coulson, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa said that there has been significant success already in fighting FGM thanks to the involvement of PAP parliamentarians.

But she urged them to take even further action to protect the future of millions of African women who still face FGM and the painful consequences of the practice.