Today, 6th February, marks the annual UN-backed International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Around the world, more than 140 million girls have been victims of FGM, many of them living in African countries where we work.
FGM offers no health benefits whatsoever for females; on the contrary, the cutting and mutilation of women’s genitalia causes lifelong physical and emotional damage and we join with the UN and countless other organisations by calling for zero tolerance for this practice, today and all days. Here, we pay tribute to the coaches, programme staff and all our partners and funders in Africa and beyond for working towards the elimination of this harmful practice.
In Tarime, Tanzania, our joint programme with Plan International, the Children’s Dignity Forum, and the EU, has just come to a close after two incredible years. Thirty coaches were trained to deliver drills with the aim of educating and ultimately changing attitudes, and eventually behaviour, towards FGM. Gweso Gabriel Nyakisagane, Chairman of the Tarime Football Federation, observed the training and said, “I am so thankful for this project. I believe that through sport activities you can succeed in delivering this important message, to end FGM and Child Marriage. The coaches you are training will have the responsibility to spread the message through football, reach far and reach many.”
Two coaches from Tarime also gave their thoughts on the programme. Coach Nyambeki struggled at first to talk about such a sensitive topic. “This is my second year taking part in the course. Society must avoid [FGM], we need prevention. I had some difficulties in learning how to deliver the drills and also how to approach these topics. Sometimes it is hard to find the right way to talk about it. But [the players] have changed their point of view since starting the course. Some of the girls didn’t know about the possibility of avoiding FGM; some of them were about to get married, they changed their mind and now are still in school.”
Coach Mahando spoke to us about the power of sport as a way to inform his community. “I have decided to join TackleAfrica to educate people about these issues. I am against FGM and child marriage because of the things I have seen in the area where I live. It is time to stand against this. As a football player I love anything related to this sport! Football brings people together; it is a good way to spread this important message.”
Over to West Africa, and in Burkina Faso our new programme seeks to end FGM in a country where 80% of women are cut. Together with our partner organisation there, Maia Bobo, we are working with six local schools in Burkina Faso’s second biggest city, Bobo Dioulasso. Coaches are running football sessions twice a month which include drills highlighting the negative impact of FGM. By training teachers in these schools, as well as Maia volunteers, we are promoting discussion about child rights and in particular girls’ rights. Inter-school football tournaments will provide an opportunity to involve the wider community and these will be branded with strong anti-FGM messages.
Noelie Kouraogo, a youth and gender coordinator at the Amnesty International office in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, says it is vital that our project works with men and boys as well as with women and girls because “men are the guardians of our traditions. They are not affected directly. If they were mutilated and forced to marry against their will maybe their resistance to change wouldn’t be the same. It’s not them that have to suffer these acts of violence.”
In Burkina Faso we are grateful to our corporate partner, law firm Hogan Lovells LLP, whose staff also visited Burkina Faso with TackleAfrica last year, and looked at the legal situation for women there. Without partners like these our programmes could not go ahead.
Please join us today, and all days, in saying no to FGM and by marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation. For more information on the day, please visit the UN website http://www.un.org/en/events/femalegenitalmutilationday/
If you would like to know more about our FGM programmes, or would like to get involved, please visit http://www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved