MALI: Children at the Forefront of Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation

On the International Day “Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation”, celebrated every February 6th, administrative and education authorities from two municipalities in South-Western Mali reiterated their commitment to do more in the fight against FGM after listening to the messages developed by children through songs, poems and theatre plays.

During this awareness-raising activity led by the NGO Save the Children Sweden and its local partner Centre Djoliba, key decision makers of local communities Wassoulouballé and Guaniaka, 350 km from the Malian capital city, publicly reaffirmed their full support to prevent young girls from being mutilated.

« Since this international day was declared, all the celebrations have been taking place in the capital Bamako or other regional cities. At the end of the day, it is always the same people who are being preached to», stressed Kone-Virginie Moukoro, in charge of reproductive health issues at Centre Djoliba, Save the Children Sweden’s partner. « If we do not reach out to communities in remote areas, the zero tolerance will never be achieved. This is the reason why, this year, we decide to celebrate the day at the community level by allowing children themselves to make their voices heard»,
she added. 

At the initiative of Centre Djoliba, several “children’s clubs” coming from schools of the two municipalities displayed to an adult audience their works on FGM, a harmful traditional practice. Their sketches portrayed either a young girl who passed away after a heavy bleeding due to FGM or a young woman who lost her friends because of urinary incontinence as a result of FGM. Many adults who were deeply touched by the heartrending true stories realised for the first time the complications related to the female genital mutilation.

 « I want to have girl children but they will not go through female genital mutilation. Even if my husband wants it, I will strongly oppose it», insisted Aïchatou Moise Sidibé, a 16-year-old girl. « Before joining the ‘children’s club’, I knew nothing about the FGM. Now, 5 years later, I am the one sensitizing the adults», added the girl who belong to the ‘children’s club’ of Djéguénina.

Hundreds of children also came to support their favourite local football team competing for the special « Stop FGM» cup. Among other leisure activities, a prize was awarded to the most knowledgeable person on FGM after a quiz contest.

 « For the past few years, children’s involvement has been largely overlooked in many campaigns against FGM», commented Amé David, programme officer at the regional office of Save the Children Sweden for West Africa. «Today, children have sent us a very clear message: they are willing and able to help eradicate this traditional practice », she continued. Both in rural and urban areas, more than 85% of Malian women between 15 and 49 year old have undergone female genital mutilation, according to the latest demographic survey conducted in 2003. To date, Mali has not yet adopted any legislation against this old traditional practice. However, the efforts of different organisations, such as Centre Djoliba, are beginning to bear fruit in some local communities.

SOURCE: APO - Source

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DATE: 21/02/2008

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