Helsinki, Finland – The Finnish AWEPA Section initiated a short seminar on the promotion of the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), in cooperation with the Finnish Female Network of MPs and the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Hon. Maria Lohela, Finnish MP, Member of the Finnish AWEPA Section and Chair of the Finnish Delegation to the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) chaired the activity. It was organised on the occasion of a visit by an all-women parliamentary delegation of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda) to the Finnish Parliament.
Keynote speaker Hon. Els Van Hoof, Belgian Senator and Political Coordinator for AWEPA’s FGM/C programme shared her experiences and participation in AWEPA’s parliamentary activities on this subject. Ms. Van Hoof pointed out the clear interlinking of the practice in Europe and Africa, since it is difficult to abandon FGM/C in Europe if it is still practised in Africa. She continued by stipulating that efforts to end the practice need to go beyond a shift in individual attitudes and address entire communities in ways that can significantly decrease social expectations to perform FGM/C. She also noted that local and national media can serve as a forum to disseminate information in order to increase support for the abandonment of FGM/C.
Furthermore, Ms. Van Hoof stressed the engagement of parliamentarians as a crucial factor to succeed in putting an end to FGM/C. Examples of concrete actions by parliamentarians are:
The AWEPA programme has accomplished important results in this regard. The establishment of a local task force in an advisory role to the National Assembly in Senegal, the strengthened linkages between MPs and local leaders, including religious leaders, and the extensive media coverage on the issue are some examples.
Hon. Van Hoof also spoke about the situation in Belgium and her legal initiative resulting in the recently approved proposal put forward by her to expand the current Belgian law on FGM/C. This has led to the revision of the current Belgian law. For more information on this click here.
The situation concerning FGM/C in Finland, in particular among the Somali community, was outlined by Ms. Saido Mohamed from the League for Human Rights. Ms. Marja Tiilikainen, PhD, Academy Research Fellow, University of Helsinki, discussed the National Action Plan 2012-2016 published by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health aimed at creating permanent national and regional structures to prevent FGM/C on girls and women. For the full action plan, click here.
For more information on the full IGAD visit in Finland click here.
Hon. Els Van Hoof is a Belgian Senator and Political Coordinator of AWEPA’s FGM/C Programme. She is also a womens’ rights activist and the chairperson of Woman and Society (Vrouw & Maatschappij) organization.