Campaign against FGM launched on Women's Day

SOMALIA: Campaign against FGM launched on Women's Day

NAIROBI, 8 Mar 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - On the occasion of International Women's Day, a campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been launched throughout Somalia, where an estimated 98 percent of all women have undergone the ritual.

The campaign is being led by four networks of Somali women’s organisations, namely the Coalition of Grassroots Women's Organization (COGWO), IIDA Women's Development Organization (IIDA means celebrate in Somali), We Are Women Activists (WAWA) and NAGAAD (roughly translated in Somali as 'Stay Rooted'). The networks represent nearly 90 grass-roots women's groups, Maryan Abdulle Qawane of COGWO told IRIN.

The campaign was launched simultaneously on Monday in Hargeysa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, Bosaso, the commercial capital of the self-styled autonomous region of Puntland, and in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as well as in other towns.

The launches were marked by popular events such as rallies, demonstrations and drama performances, said Maryan, who is also the national coordinator of the Campaign Against Violence Against Women.

In Mogadishu, over 10,000 women came out to demonstrate against the practice, chanting slogans, such as "Save your daughter from FGM" and "FGM is not a religious obligation", according to Maryan. They were addressed by the president of the Transitional National Government of Somalia, Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, who attended the event accompanied by his wife, Maryan said.

Most of the 98 percent of Somali women who have undergone FGM have experienced the most drastic form "in the mistaken belief that they were observing a religious obligation", she said.

The aim of the campaign was to sensitise the Somali people, particularly women, "to the harmful effects of the practice", said Maryan. "We want to make it clear that there is no religious basis for this practice."

At the time that the operation was performed, the women suffered psychological shock, as well as pain and physical damage to the vulva, she said. Moreover, as a result, those subjected to FGM were prone to urinary tract infections and obstetric complications usually leading to "prolonged and severe labour pains and sometimes stillbirths".

Maryan said that later on Monday, religious leaders and doctors were expected to hold a conference in Mogadishu to discuss "FGM and its health implications in the context of religion". "Religious leaders will make it clear to the public that it is not a religious obligation," Maryan noted.

A separate statement issued by the Somalia Aid Coordination Body, which is made of donors, UN agencies and NGOs, said the campaign against FGM was part of the global Amnesty International campaign to stop violence against women. It pledged support to the Somali women groups for the total eradication of FGM in that country.

According to the World Heath Organisation, most girls and women who have undergone genital mutilation live in 28 African countries, although some live in Asia and the Middle East. They are also increasingly found in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA, primarily among immigrants from these countries.

WHO estimates the number of girls and women who have undergone FGM globally at between 100 and 140 million, while each year a further 2 million girls are at risk.

FGM, often referred to as 'female circumcision', comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or religious reasons. There are different types of FGM but the most common type is excision of the clitoris and the labia minora, according to WHO.

The practise has immediate and long-term health consequences, depending on the type and severity of the procedure performed. These include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue and more recently, possible transmission of HIV/AIDS due to the use of the same instrument in multiple operations.


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