For the 140 million women living with the consequences of this traditional practice, it’s already too late. But a new weapon is giving hope to those fighting for the cause: a worldwide ban from the United Nations. Alvidlda Jablonko, coordinator of “No Peace without Justice” has been pushing for such a ban at the UN General Assembly since 2010. The resolution was finally adopted at the end of last month.
This organization, founded by Emma Bonino, has been working for 10 years to make a difference for women. Bonino has joined forces with other organizations, particulalrly in Africa, to effect local action against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). One of the organizations involved is the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC), present in 29 African countries.
Activists have long pushed politicians to speak out against the barbaric pratice of FGM. Kenya and Burkina Faso, for example, have openly attacked the practice. They could perhaps serve as an example to others who are still struggling to accept the idea of the ban.
A sign of real change ahead?
“The adoption of this prohibition is a good sign, but alas, it will not change everything,” said Ms. Jablonko.
The ban must now move from theory to implementation. Some countries are already active but the efforts at all regional and local levels need to be harmonised. Sometimes when neighbors have different laws, people cross the border legally to proceed with the mutilation of their daughters.
For the ban to become effectual, governments must engage in the fight and unlock funds. The signs are encouraging, as activists have never been so successful in the past. They pushed their governments and the United Nations and now have to work locally with communities, parliaments, ministers, and other groups to see thier efforts through.
The First Lady of Kenya Lucy Kibaki, who is known for her activism, was the international coordinator of this campaign. Another major player was the Hon. Linah Jebii Kilimo, a member of the Kenyan parliament who helped to pass an anti-FGM law in Kenya and who has always fought this practice. She stressed the importance of the UN measure.
“Finally! It’s not enough that we did it in my country. The ban had to be global.’
More struggles for African women
Others, like Shamengo pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege, help the hundreds of thousands of women who have been raped to regain their sense of self-worth and some sense of place in a committee. As a reconstructive vaginal surgeon, he sees dozens of rape victims each week, many of whom require extensive reconstructive surgery due to their injuries.
Dr. Mukwege also treats the psychological wounds of these women by providing them a safe environment and a chance to share their stories with other women as part of a healing process. The strong sense of community at the clinic helps to restore the dignity of the women treated there.
Hopefully preventative efforts like the international ban on female genital mutilation and the work of many NGOs and local governments combined with support for women already affected by FGM, rape and other crimes, signify a brighter future for young African women growing up in the shadow of these threats.