“I Refused”: Brave Women And Girls Take A Stand Against FGM

UNITED NATIONS, New York/Ouagadougou, BURKINA FASO – Fourteen-year-old Latifatou Compaoré learned the spirit of resistance from her mother.

UNFPA-logo
UNFPA-logo

Her mother was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child in Burkina Faso. “She told me that one of the girls who had been cut the same day as her had experienced serious problems and died following a haemorrhage that no one had taken care of,” Latty explained.

FGM can cause a raft of serious health consequences, including not only haemorrhage but also shock, infection and complications in childbirth.

Yet the practice is widespread around the world. An estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to the practice. Some 3.9 million girls were subjected to FGM in 2015 alone. And if FGM continues at current levels, 68 million girls will be cut between 2015 and 2030.

But brave women and girls are taking a stand against FGM, sometimes risking stigma and rejection by their families and communities.

Latty’s mother was one of these courageous women.

“When she became a mom, she made the commitment that if she had girls, she would never cut them,” Latty said. “And she kept her word.”

A voice for change

Latty was 10 years old when she heard her mother’s account. “This story really shocked me,” she said.

“I cannot understand that children can be made to suffer in such a way, that they can be mutilated under conditions with poor or no hygiene.”

She decided to become an advocate for ending the practice. A talented singer, Latty recorded a song about it, called “Excision,” which garnered attention throughout the country, even getting air time on national television and radio stations.

Latty has since recorded two more songs about ending the practice. On a Facebook page she created about eliminating FGM, her videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

But she has also faced backlash. “There are some who congratulate me and encourage me to go forward, but there are others who bother me a lot,” she said.

“I also receive messages that ask me to stop, to mind my own business.”

The opposition does not discourage her, though.

“It is a cause that I will defend throughout my life,” Latty said.

Around the world, thousands of courageous girls like Latty are calling for the elimination of FGM in their families and communities.

In Kenya, 17-year-old Sharleen Cherop also said no to FGM.

She managed to escape both FGM and child marriage – which are linked in some places, with one practice considered a precursor to the other.

“My family wanted me to be cut and get married, but I refused,” Sharleen said. She ran away from home and found support and safety at a nearby school. She is now an advocate for children’s rights.

In Egypt, FGM is widespread. More than 90 per cent of women have undergone the practice, according to a 2014 survey. The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation works with local partners and communities to raise awareness about the harms caused by FGM.

Fatmah’s mother heard some of these messages from a local NGO and taught them to Fatmah. Today, at 13 years old, Fatmah has rejected FGM and is a passionate advocate for its elimination. “FGM is wrong and it has lots of harms,” she said. “I convinced my sister not to cut her kids.”

In Ethiopia, 18-year-old Sofia Hussen experienced both FGM and child marriage. She learned about the harms of both practices from a UNFPA-supported adolescent girls group, and today she uses her own story to call for change.

“I am a living example,” she said of her work.

Promise not to cut

Latty, too, has seen real change in her community.

“A little while ago, a friend of my mother came into our yard with her 2-year-old daughter. She said that family members were insisting on cutting the little one,” Latty recalled.

She spoke to the woman at length, explaining the consequences of FGM. “She ended up promising us that she would not cut her,” Latty said.

To date, the girl has not been cut, she added.

“We have to fight every day to try to educate as many people as possible,” Latty explained. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Culled from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

Sub-Saharan African “Slave” Migrants Being Repatriated From Libya

Following revelation and an outcry against the purported  “slave auctions” of mostly black African migrants in the North African nation of Libya, several African countries have begun receiving their repatriated nationals.

Migrants
Migrants in Libya

With assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the Government of Sierra Leone  on Wednesday received 164 of its citizens.

The Journal du Cameroun website quotes IOM officials as saying the the returnees which included men, women and children were flown to Freetown in the early hours of Wednesday with the help of the IOM.

According to IOM officials,  the returnees had voluntarily asked to be flown back home after going through  what they described as “difficult experiences”.

IOM
IOM

The European Union (EU) and the Government of Libya provided tickets for the Sierra Leonen returnees while the IOM is providing financial assistance packages to facilitate reintegration in their various communities.

The returnees are being temporarily accommodated  at the National Stadium in the capital Freetown.

Meantime, the Government of Burkina Faso has recalled its Ambassador to Libya over reports of the “auction” of black African migrants in the north African nation.

About 135 Burkinabe migrants were recently repatriated with assistance from the IOM.

Gambian Migrants
Gambia Migrants

In the Gambia, about 1500 returnees who were repatriated from Libya have begun receiving packages from the IOM for resettlement.

As part of its Freedom Project, CNN recently uncovered a ” slave auction market” of black African migrants in Libya in multiple locations in the country.

The Government of National Unity (GNA) of Libya, while announcing an investigation, responded to the report saying, “We affirm again that the practical solution is to address the real reasons that drive people to leave their home countries, treat them and develop final solutions for them.”

The Chairman of the African Union and Guinean Presidnet Alpha Conde has condemned the auction of Africans as slaves.

Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine