Consortium of NGOs from five West African countries call for an end to FGM

Consortium of NGOs from five West African countries call for an end to FGM

A consortium of non-governmental organizations working in the field of gender-based violence (GBV) from five West African countries on Tuesday held their second ordinary meeting in Wa in the Upper West Region with a call for an end to female genital mutilation (FGM) to restore the dignity of women and also protect their sexual rights.
Christened the West African Network of Associations and NGOs Fighting Against GBV, the consortium consists of countries namely Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire.
The Vice President of the Network, Mr Salifu Kanton who is also the Executive Director of the Community Development Alliance (CDA) said the network was formed to foster unity and harmonise interventions and efforts dedicated to fighting FGM across the West African sub-region.
He explained that the practice which was common among residents of border towns would only go extinct if the partners worked together to ensure that FGM was not migrated to other countries.
“We share cross-border similarities and cross-border challenges that affect all of the sub-regions so NGOS within the sub-regions came together in 2019 after a meeting in Cote D’Ivoire to influence change and impact communities to address sexual and gender-based violence with a particular focus on eliminating FGM”, he said.
Mr Kanton expressed that since the countries shared common traits such as local languages, socio-cultural networks and arrangement as well as belief systems, the network was necessary to ensure that people who would want to leave the region to another country to perpetrate the act were identified and stopped.
“People no longer do the cutting in the open because of the criminalisation of the practice but FGM is still prevalent because of certain social norms and cultural beliefs”, he stated.
One of the key measures adopted by the Network, he noted was to identify the circumcisers who were mostly women, persuade them to abandon the practice and use them as ambassadors to drive the change after issuing them certificates and awards for stopping the practice.
“We are not looking at getting people prosecuted but getting them to accept that what they are doing is bad and has health implications and implications on the dignity of the girls”, he said.
He mentioned that the meeting was to review the work done by the respective organisations in each member country towards eliminating FGM in line with the United Nations timeline of 2030.
“Our contribution is to try and accelerate the pace and make sure that no girl living in the West African sub-region is subjected to this inhuman practice and we do this by sharing experience and tracking the gains; especially on our porous borders so that if Ghana is making effort, the circumcisers do not cross to Burkina Faso and vice versa”, he explained.
He added that with the rise in violent extremism in these countries, they were also looking at alternative ways to bring calm without resorting to a military approach which according to him had failed in addressing the conflicts and had rendered people more alienated and vindictive.
“We believe in social cohesion, fostering peacebuilding and accepting differences to reduce radicalization of young people into extremist groups; CDA for instance is empowering women through networking for peacebuilding by targeting female leaders in communities to become peace ambassadors to address the underlying causes of radicalization “, he added.
Some participants in Mali and Burkina Faso who shared their work said they were helping to rehabilitate people affected by violent extremism but said the insecurity and tensions had affected community engagement as well as donor support for their activities.
FROM LYDIA DARLINGTON FORDJOUR, WA

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