London, House of Commons, UK – The Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), and AWEPA hosted a meeting on “Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Progress Update” in the House of Commons. Lord Chidgey, Vice-Chair of the Africa APPG and Chair of the AWEPA Section in the UK Parliament, hosted the lively debate with main speakers: Hon. Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (DFID), and Dr. Jeff Balch, AWEPA Director of Research and Evaluation. Hon. Featherstone, discussed progress made through DFID’s first programme fully dedicated to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). It was announced in March of this year and aims to see a 30 percent reduction in FGM/C over the next five years.
Dr. Jeff Balch spoke about the AWEPA programme in West Africa. Parliamentarian engagement has the potential to become the primary catalyst for change toward successful and sustainable FGM/C abandonment. UK parliamentarians should make the effort to work in tandem with their African colleagues to generate and maintain political support and social change. It is currently understood that parliamentarians lack the knowledge and resources necessary to effectively engage in FGM/C programmes, which is a problem that must be addressed.
Ms. Claudia Cappa, Statistics and Monitoring Specialist at UNICEF contextualized the contents of the recent UNICEF report “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”, which was distributed at the meeting. The report reasons that although support for FGM/C is decreasing, significant challenges remain. People must speak out to raise awareness; men in particular have the potential to be great proponents for FGM/C abandonment.
In an open discussion covering a broad range of issues relating to FGM/C it was concluded that the subject of FGM/C must be raised both in schools and refugee camps, and communication must be free and unrestricted. Participants were interested to hear that in some countries men are more opposed to FGM/C than women. All participants unanimously agreed that there is a clear role for MPs to be involved.
The meeting was well attended by parliamentarians, including Hon. Jane Ellison, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Health, Hon. James Duddridge, Chair of the Africa APPG, Hon. Bill Cash, who has introduced the Gender Equality Bill (International Development), Lord Steel, President of the Africa APPG and Lord Avery as well as several other high-profile figures working on these issues. It provided parliamentarians with the opportunity to engage with representatives from various governmental departments and NGO staff working on related issues.