“Women’s emancipation is a precondition for any type of progress”
-Graça Machel, Chairperson of AWEPA
Worldwide, gender inequality keeps spurring women to become more active in campaigning for their rights. Endorsing this global movement, the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) advocates for a greater awareness of the different gender causes which remain to be adequately addressed both in African and in European parliaments.
As a matter of fact, AWEPA has been involved with gender causes since its inception back in the 1980s. In particular, it has been contributing to the global effort for the abandonment of FGM/C since 2009. AWEPA’s FGM/C programme aims at encouraging legislative action and enactment by African and European parliaments. In Africa, the programme entails the organisation of parliamentary workshops and sensitization activities at community level, initially in three West African countries: Burkina Faso, Maliand Senegal. These activities are supported by the Luxemburg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and implemented in the context of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme to Accelerate change towards FGM/Cabandonment.
For several years now, Burkina Faso has been a pioneer in Africa in trying to abandon the excision of women and young girls. In 2012, the National Assembly of Burkina Faso and AWEPA joined forces to support the ban on FGM/C at the international level. In a two-day workshop organised in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in April, over forty Members of Parliaments (MPs), representatives of the government and local NGOs exchanged ideas on how to best undertake and coordinate action towards the eradication of FGM/C.
Immediately after, on May 3rd 2012, the First Lady of Burkina Faso, Chantal Compaoré, visited the Belgian Senate in Brussels at the invitation of AWEPA and a coalition of NGOs to urge the worldwide application of a United Nations Resolution banning FGM/C. As a result, a few months later, a UN Resolution was approved on intensification of global efforts for the eradication of female genital mutilations.
In September 2012, parliamentarians from Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Niger and Togo met in Ouagadougou to discuss the problem of FGM/C in their countries, particularly in border areas where the practice persists. During the meeting organised by AWEPA, parliamentarians further examined the question of trans-border excision and the important role of men in the abandonment of FGM/C.
Other activities related to FGM/C
Last year, as part of its cooperation with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and, in particular, with the PAP women’s caucus, AWEPA produced the Guidelines for Parliamentarians on the abandonment of FGM/C. These Guidelines provide a practical tool for parliamentarians to put forth the issue of FGM/C and to accelerate the end of this practice in their respective countries.
After more than ten years of AWEPA’s engagement with women in the Great Lakes Region via the Network of Women Parliamentarians of Central Africa (RFPAC), FGM/C and Resolution 1325 have been placed on the parliamentary agendas of central African countries. This is one of the greatest successes resulting from this programme.
AWEPA´s efforts to end FGM/C also take place in Europe. By including the topic in its programmes and partnerships throughout Africa, AWEPA lobbies in conjunction with the corresponding parliaments for the allocation of adequate financial resources necessary for the implementation of measures by European and African governments.
As an example, on 19 June 2012, Members of the Dutch Parliament, led by the Hon. Kathleen Ferrier, met with Dutch-based organisations to reactivate among policymakers and parliamentarians the political debate relative to the abandonment of FGM/C and to unmask its deficiencies. This event was co-organised by the Dutch AWEPA section, AWEPA International and the Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos). Click here to read more.
In addition, AWEPA organised a public workshop during the annual Africa Day in November 2012, in cooperation with the National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development, and with the presence of Miss Africa Netherlands and Ms. Zahra Naleie (Somalia). This workshop gave the opportunity to learn and share knowledge and experience. Experts on the subject spoke about some of what is being done nationally and internationally (including political action) to ban FGM/C.
Moreover, AWEPA recently co-organised with the Platform 6/2an international conference on abandoning FGM/C which took place on 6 February 2013. This day marked the tenth commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
What is Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting?
According to the World Health Organisation, close to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently confronted with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilations/Cutting (FGM/C). In Africa, an estimated 101 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone this practice. Regrettably, FGM/C is far from being a strictly African problem: up to an estimated 360 thousand victims may be concerned in Europe within migrant communities. It is considered a violation of human rights internationally.