At least 80% of girls in Burkina Faso in West Africa undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the process of removing some or all of the female genitalia. The practice offers no health benefits and, despite its illegality, persists due to traditional cultural beliefs. As part of the fight to stamp out this harmful violation of girls’ rights, TackleAfrica have started a programme with a Burkinabe organisation called Maia Bobo.
Maia have been working on FGM, Child Marriage and girls’ rights to education in Burkina Faso for twenty two years, and is run by a group of dedicated workers, many of whom are women who have been excised, or “cut”, themselves. This makes them an ideal partner to guide us and implement a TackleAfrica programme in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city.
As part of our kick off for this programme, a team with representatives from TackleAfrica, our partner Hogan Lovells law firm, and an artist and arts educator who will design materials, visited Maia. Jane Carter, TackleAfrica Head of Partnerships, was part of the group, and gave a first-hand account of her experience:
“We were invited to attend a “safari” which is a kind of survivor’s support group where women who have suffered excision tell their story. As we sat listening to their accounts I found myself growing increasingly angry and sad at what these courageous women had experienced. Some told of being lured into a compound as a child with the promise of sweets and then being dragged into a toilet, pinned down and cut. Others spoke of their inability to have sex causing them difficulties in their marriage and more seriously, the extreme agony of childbirth where the baby cannot exit the birth canal and the women has to be cut open and then restitched. One woman’s baby was starved of oxygen during birth due to obstructed labour and suffered brain damage. The traumas they had been through were etched on their faces and Natalie, our wonderful facilitator, told us how this was a form of therapy as normally they are not able to speak of these hugely personal things and some have carried the burden in silence for many years.”
Maia spoke to us of a generational shift that is changing attitudes. It is often the grandmother or mother-in-law who insists on girls being cut but if the father says no, the cut will not happen. This means men and boys need to be actively included in any efforts to stop FGM. By bringing men and boys into this debate more actively, as well as allowing girls to participate in sport properly and learn more about how their body works, we believe we will achieve a greater impact. We know we need to be patient, and the women of Maia are committed to this cause for the long-term. But together, we believe that this generation will stop cutting their daughters and will reject this tradition for what it is – a violation of the rights of the girl child.
If you would like to get involved with TackleAfrica, from donating to volunteering to working on a programme, we would love to hear from you. Visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved for more details.