Migration from east to west, in recent decades, has meant FGM is globalizing. Its existence can no longer be denied and the lack of action to combat it can no longer be excused. Western law enforcement discovering FGM crime 'on their patch' has prompted a dialogue about global strategies.
The entire United Nations system is committed to helping countries end FGM, in one generation.
This year's International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM (Feb 6) was marked by a speech by the Director of UNFPA, Alana Armitage, in Geneva. She noted that the UN Interagency Statement (signed in 2007) by ten UN agencies - OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, [UNIFEM], and WHO - marked the shift in the way the international community supports countries in their efforts to eliminate FGM.
Inter-African committee on Traditional Practices affecting the health of women and children (IAC) and the leadership and commitment of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Interparlementarian Union have come up to the plate. Along with Norway, Italy and the Netherlands, which are cited as, 'leadership' countries who support anti-FGM initiatives. On behalf of the Joint UNFPA and UNICEF Programme to Accelerate the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting, and UNHCR, Armitage went on to say:
"FGM/C is not confined to African Countries and we need to continue advocacy efforts within Europe to ensure that all countries have laws banning FGM/C in order to protect girls and women from this violation of human rights. We also need to build bridges between policies and programmes in Europe and Africa, and especially between practicing communities living in Africa and in Europe. The FGM/C Abandonment Movement in Africa needs to reach and involve communities in Europe".Even more recently, however, it's been the World Health Organization's behind-the-scenes efforts that have brought things into key focus. Dr. Heli Bathija, Area manager of Africa and Eastern Mediterranean Working Region from the Department of Reproductive Health officially asked a young initiative called The Global Alliance Against Female Genital Mutilation, to introduce themselves, at a WHO luncheon conference, in Geneva, also on, Feb 6, 2011.
Unveiling itself as the first NGO with the inspiration/goal to federate all efforts against FGM, the Global Alliance against FGM presented a prototype of an internet Global Portal and discussed their international mapping-tool project to be developed for use by all communities and persons seeking to abandon FGM. Their office is based in Geneva and is administered by co-founders Holger Postulart and Elisabeth Wilson, both of whom, are experienced WHO consultants.
Based on understanding, this is GA-FGM's mandate starting point:
That - men - have a place in all federating efforts; an extraordinarily important place. They - have a unique role in - helping to accelerate - the UN goal for communities to abandon FGM and in joining hands in eradicating FGM worldwide.
Wilson and Postulart are, therefore, so proud to present to the world both a female and a male Goodwill Ambassador representing the GA-FGM.
They are: Christine de St Genois and Jasper van't Hof.
Captain Christine de St Genois de Grand Breucq is a pioneer and accomplished aviator, a French women's rights activist and Knight of the Legion of Honour. Dutchman Jasper van't Hof is an accomplished Jazz musician and one of the first (if not the first) European to fuse African music with European Jazz. He could be described as a Jazz fusion African worldmusic artist.
In addition Town-mayor Monsieur Franck Hedrich of Versonnex kindly provided a municipal concert hall for Jasper Van't Hof and, on April 9, the GA-FGM held the first ever Benefit Concert Against FGM in Versonnex France. Only 15 minutes out of Geneva, the event was to further build public confidence, knowledge and donors to endorse the GA-FGM charter objectives. Alana Armitage attended in person and, again noted, in her speech to the audience, the urgent need to properly fund and energize this movement.
In the interview that followed this well-attended concert, Postulart and Wilson described to me the ground-breaking function of the GA-FGM website as, both, a federating and fund-raising tool:
"Our goal is, creating an international centre of information, an e-library of articles, books, links, etc. with a state-of-the-art search engine. We intend to form as complete as possible e-library of FGM abandonment resource aids."Explaining why NGOs should be motivated to join the portal the GA-FGM will act as a kind of conduit. It will be a source for not only acquiring info but distributing it and optimizing communication between their own organization, their community and bodies of the UN. He adds, "We'll all be able to see where there is lack of action.
"We will approaching NGOs with a specific criteria. Namely we seek those employing successful eradication models, and who, like us, seek transparency, collaboration to help to finally to abandon this FGM practice" explains Postulart.
On our website there will be a mapping tool. Using a complex world map, will be a flag representing - e.g. - at this particular place - that - there is an NGO working in the field. Blue = NGO present. RED = FGM is prevalent.
Postulart goes on to say, "Each flag will show what projects are underway, what eradication models are currently in place, what is needed (depending on an analysis of results and stats) and of course, ideally where the money comes from."
Showing how useful the mapping-tool will become Holger points to Togo, just by way of example - "Togo is often represented as practicing FGM. As if it's all over country. When in fact it's actually practiced in the North and not the South. In the South, we learned, people don't even know it is practiced in the north.
The mapping tool will illustrate this sort of nuance and thus [hopefully] prompt action. Please have a look at www.donor2deed.com. You will see how an effective mapping tool is already in place (used for NGOs working in Pakistan during and after the flood). We intend to mimic this approach vis a vis FGM.
The overall approach creates new dimension in the effort to support the on-going fieldwork.
Wilson confirms "the GA-FGM Alliance is not and - will not - be working directly on the ground. We're not going to (Africa or elsewhere where FGM is also practised) where work is being done to tell these people what to do. Rather, we want to re-enforce the good work NGOs are already doing! The goal is - exchanging info - so that data on FGM gets more and more complete and anyone can and will be able to find it systematically".
She adds "Our no-competition edict mentioned on our website means NGOs with good ideas will be presented in an equal way. What fits one region may be different in another, it's their difference that has to be valued and seen. It - will be - on the Portal".
There is a chief dilemma facing both the East and the West at this time in history, it's a dilemma that challenges all governments and NGOs working to eradicate FGM; Postulart explains it well, here:
"There's the woman who does the cutting." [Yes, indeed this is what we've understood and led to understand according to research] - but - Postulart asks pointedly - "Is she really the responsible one? ...When; authorities are there...present and holding the child. May even be, a mother, an aunt and/or a grandmother; with community leaders onlooking, endorsing it; as a traditional ritual."[Note from editor: This film from 2002: God's Sandbox by Israeli filmmaker Doron Eran attacks the subject of ritual female circumcision. I suggest anyone trying to learn more about this practice watch the movie, and be forewarned that it may not be advisable for children.]
Diane Walsh, MA, is an investigative journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. She contributes to new media outlets, newspapers which by some miracle haven't gone under, and magazines in the US, Canada and Europe. Diane became acquainted with the Salem-News.com team during a recent speaking tour that included Canada. She is a welcome addition to our lineup of truth-bound thoughtful and extremely talented writers.
For more information on specific publications and to reach Diane directly, please visit: indydianewalsh.wordpress.com