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NIGER: 10 Villages in Niger Kick Against Female Circumcision

Ten villages in western Niger have decided to end the practice of female genital mutilations, including female circumcision, publicly calling inhabitants in the Tillabéry region to abandon such a practice which is dangerous to the lives of girls, women and babies, according to a press release from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), made available to PANA Tuesday.

According to the release, the prevalence of female genital mutilation/female circumcision (FGM/FC) in Niger fell considerably between 1998 and 2006, from 5 to 2.2 per cent.

However, this figure masks significant regional disparities: the regions of Tillabery, Diffa, and Niamey are mostly concerned by this practice.

About 66 per cent of women living in Gourma, in the western part of Niger near Mali, are circumcised.

"UNICEF hails this statement to abandon female circumcision, considered by Niger authorities as a serious violation of women's and girls' rights," said Akhil Iyer, UNICEF country representative in Niger.

"Female circumcision has a negative impact on their health, their ability to have children and be educated. This public statement is an act of courage and an important step forward for the country," Iyer declared.

Forced circumcision, usually performed without anaesthesia, is extremely painful and traumatic for girls.

They are exposed to HIV/AIDS infection if blades used are not sterilized, the risk of bleeding and medical complications, including infections that can lead to infertility and deliveries that can be fatal for mothers and children.

In Niger, 650 women per 100,000 live births die of complications related to pregnancy or delivery each year.

UNICEF and the government of Niger have been working since 1992 in close collaboration with the Niger Committee on Traditional Practices (CONIPRAT) to protect the health and integrity of women and girls.

In 2003, Niger reached a crucial step by criminalizing such practices, contributing to advancing maternal and child health indicators.

In 2007, CONIPRAT and its partners implemented a strategy for a positive social change in the ten villages of Makalondi (west of Niger).

For 18 months, members of the community, representing 13,000 people, acquired new skills and knowledge to better understand the negative impact of some behaviours and the need to change them.

This approach, which promotes dialogue between women and men and between generations, will be extended to other villages in 2009.

SOURCE: Afrique en Ligne

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DATE: 20/04/2009

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