Around the world, more than 140 million girls are victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which involves the removal of external female genitalia, usually without anaesthetic. The practice is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, yet thousands of girls continue to be cut each day due to long-standing traditional beliefs.
FGM has no health benefits for women but rather causes trauma, pain, infertility, infections, increased incidence of HIV/AIDS, increased risk of complications in childbirth and is often linked to early marriage. FGM and child marriage robs girls of their childhood and their health. Girls as young as twelve or thirteen are offered in marriage, and suffer further trauma from coerced sex and premature pregnancies.
Our new project seeks to end FGM in a country where 80% of women are cut: Burkina Faso. Noelie Kouraogo, a youth and gender coordinator at the Amnesty International office in the 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.”
Our project will focus on Burkina Faso’s second biggest city, Bobo Dioulasso. Our partner organisation there, Maia Bobo, is a women’s community group who focus on promoting women’s health and child rights. Together with Maia, we plan to work with six local schools 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 will promote 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. We will also work with the Student-Parent Association in each school organising debates and film shows on FGM, and radio broadcasts will include messages from our coaches and publicity for the tournaments. This multi-faceted and multi-media approach will help to reinforce the message that FGM harms girls and the practice needs to end.
But we won’t stop there. We are fortunate to have our corporate partner Hogan Lovells LLP, who will also visit Burkina Faso with two TackleAfrica staff and an artist to research the legal situation. An illustrated booklet will then be produced for use in schools and in the wider community, laying out the legal rights of women and girls in Burkina Faso as well as telling a story about the consequences of FGM. Using football as a means of communicating our message will attract men and boys, and as we will train women and girls as coaches and players too it will begin to break down stereotyped attitudes that prevent communities from solving this together.
Our work in west Africa follows our merger with Coaching for Hope, now working under the single brand of TackleAfrica. For more details please see https://tackleafrica.org/coaching-for-hope/
If you are a coach interested in working on our projects in Africa, please visit https://tackleafrica.org/get-involved/