Female genital mutilation

Transcript of a conference on Female Genital Mutilation.

On the 3d of October 2009 Foundation MamaWatoto in collaboration with stichting IMTRAD organized a conference with the title “Female Genital Mutilation”.

Venue: Daalwijk 100A
Amsterdam ZuidOost.
Time: 17:00 until 02:00
Attendance: 66 people.

Organizer: Ms. Christine Among-van der Pluijm, chairperson Foundation MamaWatoto. (MamaWatoto means mother of children in Kiswahili, an East African local language).

Mrs. Christine Among
One of foundation MamaWatoto goals is to facilitate the empowerment of women in basic human rights. Aim is to ensure that all population and development policies emphasize women’s equality and advancement, including education, employment opportunities, and the like.

Purpose of the conference was to invite the public to discuss issues regarding female genital mutilation, issues shared by research institutions, foundations, medical professionals, religious scholars, development partner’s, governments and non-governmental organizations. To recognize matters that continues to affect many women and girls around the world. However the challenges are that only a few women are empowered, the majorities of women still continues to be ensnared by ancient traditional practices, cultural conditions, or are limited by local rules and regulations. Female circumcision or female genital cutting or female genital mutilation is an ancient cultural tradition, which is practiced in many African countries, and in some areas of the Middle-East and Asia. The past twenty years, as a consequence of increased mobility and migration, female genital cutting has become known all over the world, even in countries where this practice until then was unknown.
By medical experts, human rights activists, feminists, and also many circumcised women themselves, the practice is considered to be harmful to the health of girls and women, and violates their basic human rights. Recent years also some religious authorities have openly opposed the continued practice of female genital cutting. Furthermore, legislation in almost all of Europe as well as many other countries, where the practice of female genital cutting is widely spread, forbids the act. Moreover, in Europe and Africa several campaigns and projects against the practice of female genital mutilation, both on national and international levels, have been conducted.

Objectives of the meeting:

* To raise awareness on Female Genital mutilation.
* To raise awareness among women in relation to gender, violence.
* Improving women’s self-confidence.
* Get rid of ignorance.

The moderator Mr. Ibra Ndaula, secretary of foundation Pearl of Africa and also a member of Diaspora Forum for Development (DFD), started by introducing the chairperson of foundation MamaWatoto and followed by introducing the guest speakers and the special guest of the day, the chief executive member of the city council of Amsterdam Southeast, Mr. jude Kehla-Wirnka
Ms. Christine Among van der Pluijm, introduced organization foundation MamaWatoto, Its mission and goals and proceeded to introduce the topic of the day; Female Genital Mutilation and explained the dangers, psychological effects and the pain women go through everyday life.

First speaker: Ms. Linda Grames, journalist on Gender and chair-woman “Platform domestic peace”. She spoke about: self-esteem, confidence and ignorance.
– How to have self empowerment and assertiveness.
– What steps you need to take.
– How to work on yourself and taking control of your life.
– Changing the self in self-esteem.
– Lack of awareness about rights, and not knowing enough that puts women in dangerous situations.
– Opportunities for girls and women to live without violence.
Relation to gender:
– To define gender role behavior.

Second speaker: Ms. Suad Farah, she spoke about working with youth on awareness creation and her experience on her visit to South Africa. She explained a different experience of working with the youth in South Africa, to her it was a very educating trip. She showed a video of her visit to South Africa to the public, the places they visited and the work they did with the youth. She also spoke about women’s self-esteem, how women can empower themselves and what steps they can take to make changes in their lives.

Mrs. Suad Farah

Third speaker: Ms. Mansa, secretary of stichting IMTRAD. Started by showing the map of Africa to the audience, the countries where female genital mutilation is widely practiced and also explained that when a particular country is mentioned, this does not necessarily mean that this practice is used country-wide, but could occur in some parts and by some tribes. Female genital mutilation is not practiced only in Africa, but in other parts of Middle-East and Asia as well.

Fourth speaker: Chief Barima Samoah Kofi IV, public health information officer of GG&GD Amsterdam
Presented; Female Genital Mutilation.

* What is female genital mutilation? He showed the examples of different types of circumcisions and what it is.
* Is female genital mutilation harmful to a woman? The dangers are for example contracting other diseases and bleeding that can cause death.
* What are the psychological effects? Emotional effects, lack of self-esteem, shame, blame and he added that, if you are being forced by your parents or by anybody, you have the right to go to the authorities and report. If your family takes you back to the country of origin to be circumcised on your return see a doctor immediately.

Fifth speaker: Ms. Iris Shiripinda, program manager STI/HIV prevention ethnic minorities Netherlands.
She spoke about the different ways HIV can be contracted. She gave an example of not using condoms while having sex and also explained that circumcising girls with unsterilized knives can be a way of contracting HIV. She distributed condoms, T-shirts and pens amongst the audience.

Sixth speaker: Mr. Jude Kehla- Wirnka, alderman of Amsterdam Southeast District council. Responsible for poverty alleviation, empowerment policies and school dropouts. He spoke about female genital mutilation as a violation of the women’s rights, and how we should keep fighting to end the practice of female genital mutilation.

Mr. Jude Kehla- Wirnka

Seventh speaker: Mr. Ali Baluywa, chairman of foundation pearl of Africa. Closing the conference.

The conclusion: Financial support to the local organizations, raising awareness, educating the society and continuing organizing such discussions.
The organizations who are doing development work should try and bring back the awareness home to the countries of origin where the education and awareness has not yet widely reached and needed so badly.

After the seriousness of the topic discussed there was time for networking with the pleasure of some snacks and entertainment until 02.00 in the morning. The evening ended very well with nice music from D.J Mr. Denis from Uganda. People danced and enjoyed.

The audience enjoyed from the introduction part, to the speeches and the time of questions and answers.

Afterwards everyone contributed to help to clean the place; it was so nice seeing the people working together. There were people from different countries, from the Netherlands, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Somalia.
The message at the end was: YES WE CAN

Empowering the Disadvantaged