Say "no" to female genital mutilation on International Zero Tolerance Day

On February 6 2011, the entire world community is being asked to chant together a resounding “No!” in unison with all activists against female genital mutilation. As this is the date marking the 8th International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, we can collectively honour the global concerted efforts which rarely get the media attention, but which represent, both practical and existential struggles, against FGM tradition practice [as it is labelled for short].

Being that the 6th of February falls on a Sunday, the UN-sponsored meeting backed by the World Health Organization will take place in Geneva on Monday 9 am Feb 7 at “Le Centre International de Conférences” (CICG).  It has been a long-time coming from many activists’ point of view, but it is encouraging news as the proud two-pronged theme for 2011 has finally emerged: “Building Bridges between Europe and Africa" with an emphasis on “engaging media” and “engaging governments.” These are indispensable factors to being able to reach zero tolerance to FGM.  The Inter-African Committee is scheduled to take the floor at Monday’s Geneva meeting, issuing this statement, in advance, from IAC Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

“The objective of celebrating February 6 is to call International, Regional, National and Community attention to the efforts needed to free women and girls from the adverse tradition of female genital mutilation and to accelerate action towards its total elimination”

“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a violation of basic human rights principles, as stipulated in Article 24.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), other International and Regional instruments, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Relating to the Rights of Women in Africa, (Article 5) and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, 2004.”

The main actors on the anti-FGM front have traditionally been The Inter-African Committee, UNFPA, The UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF—and so—it makes sense that these organizations/‘branches’ of the UN have been designated hosts for the meeting. There is formal media scheduled to be represented as well, including, Afromedianet. Equally, European Network-FGM will speak in a session. 

This signals to the whole world that concrete genuine steps are being taken to solidify the resources for an anti-FGM initiative within government.

For far too long FGM has been pushed under the carpet. That’s been the sentiment of many activists who have struggled to raise awareness for more than 40 years. Things are different now. For the first time in history chief world actors alongside the prominent activists have agreed to band together.  It goes without saying that the work of all anti-FGM organizations has been emboldened by the enthusiasm of Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon stating unequivocally a UN-commitment to gender equality in September 2010 in New York. 

Coupled with that, we’ve seen the emergence of UN Women on the scene, with its new website out in January 2011. Of course the impressive former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet who SG Ban Ki-moon himself appointed at the helm [Executive Director/Under-Secretary General of UN Women] allows for a different climate to flourish. This year’s International Day is significant in that the overall strategy is being upped in part as a result of distinctly UN-Women driving in the shoulder and putting weight behind the anti-FGM cause.

The formidable contribution of The AHA Foundation; No Peace without Justice, Ban FGM and FGM NETWORK are obvious central keys as well to the current and overall political fervour galvanizing support behind ending the practice around the world. 

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