Former circumcisers and religious leaders galvanize communities to end FGM in Eritrea by 2030

National joint programme supported by UNICEF/UNFPA specifically targets communities in the rural hinterlands of Eritrea

By Rabindra Giri
A musical band lead a procession through the streets of Barentu
UNICEF/Eritrea/2020/Giri

12 February 2020

Barentu, Gash Barka region, 10 February 2020 – With a shrill blow of a whistle, a musical band replete in uniforms, began marching in lockstep as they led a procession through the streets of Barentu. Behind them more than a 1000 people including women, children, adolescents and community elders, held banners and placards as they marched in solidarity to commemorate International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on 6th February.

365体育娱乐官网“I have seen with my own eyes the pain women endure, and I have personally lived through that pain through the birth of my three children,” said 35-year-old Hawa Affa, a former circumciser from the Nara ethnic group. “I want to tell everyone that there are no benefits to being cut. Only pain and discomfort.”

365体育娱乐官网Ms. Affa was addressing a packed hall in the town of Barentu, at the programme organized by the Ministries of Health (MoH) and Labour and Social Welfare (MoLSW), and the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), with supported from UNICEF and UNFPA.

365体育娱乐官网Barentu is in the Gash Barka region and is one of three regions of Eritrea which has an unfair share of lower than average national indicators for health, education and the prevalence of harmful social practices.

Also present on the occasion were Director Generals and senior officials from the MoH, MoLSW, Gash Barka Regional Administration, Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), NUEW, religious leaders from the different faiths, community elders, women, children and adolescents.

Although the Government of the State of Eritrea (GoSE) outlawed FGM in 2007, some communities continue the practice in the name of tradition and upholding family honour.

365体育娱乐官网“Islam does not support the circumcision of females, and this is a result of the lack of education and awareness among communities, and I continue to instruct my followers to speak up and to prevent this in their communities,” said Sheik Adam Osman Fagi, a senior Muslim leader in Barentu.

Former circumcisers denounced FGM
Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare/Eritrea/2020/Filimon
Former circumcisers denounced FGM and spoke about how they now advocate within their communities to end the practice.

“I have seen with my own eyes the pain women endure, and I have personally lived through that pain through the birth of my three children,” said 35-year-old Hawa Affa, a former circumciser from the Nara ethnic group. “I want to tell everyone that there are no benefits to being cut. Only pain and discomfort.”

Since Eritrea outlawed FGM in 2007, the government is sensitizing communities on legal provisions and helping them to abandon the practice. The recently approved Eritrean National Strategic Plan to Ensure Children and Women Rights, Abandon Female Genital Mutilation, Underage Marriage and other Harmful Practices 2020-2024 aims to strengthen national protection systems, transform social and gender norms, and provide appropriate and quality protection services to eliminate FGM and Underage Marriage.

“Although we have made progress nationally, we need to accelerate action, particularly in the Gash Barka region, if we are to achieve our goal of ending FGM in Eritrea by 2030,” said Dr. Birhana Haile, Director for the Family and Community Health Division, of the MoH.

UNICEF Eritrea and UNFPA support the government’s efforts to end FGM by working with the community-based Child Rights Committees (CRC), which comprise different government agencies, religious leaders, women and adolescent boys and girls to create awareness and advocate to end this practice.

UNICEF Representative, Ms. Shaheen Nilofer (centre) with former circumcisers  working to end FGM
UNICEF/Eritrea/2020/Giri
UNICEF Representative, Ms. Shaheen Nilofer (centre) with former circumcisers and community members who are working to end FGM in their respective communities.
Officials pledge to accelerate efforts to end FGM in Eritrea
Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare/Eritrea/2020/Filimon
Senior government officials, religious leaders, former circumcisers, health officials and UNICEF and UNFPA pledged to accelerate efforts to end FGM in Eritrea by 2030

 

The UN joint programme with the Government has helped raised awareness among communities and has empowered law enforcement authorities to implement the legal provisions, and to enforce the law.

The CRC communities are active in all 67 sub-Zobas of Eritrea,  and actively sensitize community members, monitor activities and progress, and report routinely to the sub-Zoba offices of the MoLSW, the MoH and the NUEW.

The programme also works to strengthen capacity of health facilities nationwide to ensure that care services are available for survivors, and provide counselling to pregnant women and lactating mothers, not to cut their daughters.

365体育娱乐官网“I want to commend the government for outlawing FGM and for implementing the Eritrean National Strategic Plan to Ensure Children and Women Rights, Abandon Female Genital Mutilation, Underage Marriage and other Harmful Practices 2020-2024; which combined with the efforts of the CRC committees and the faith-based organizations will have a multiplier effect on other SDG targets, especially on health and well-being, quality education and safe motherhood,” said Ms. Nilofer, UNICEF Representative in her closing remarks.

To date, two sub-Zobas in Anseba have already declared themselves free from FGM, and 140 villages have been assessed by the government in 2018, and 58 villages have confirmed the criteria to ensure their community is free from FGM.