Saly, Senegal – AWEPA organised a sub-regional conference on the cross-border dimensions of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in collaboration with the local parliamentary task force on FGM/C (Comité de Pilotage – COPA MGF/E) in Senegal. The conference took place in Saly, Senegal from 30 May to 1 June 2016, and was funded by the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with support from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UNFPA Mali.
The Conference brought together some 35 participants. Attendees included Members of the National Assemblies of Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea-Bissau; a number of experts on the topic of FGM/C; a Member of the Belgian Parliament and Political Coordinator of AWEPA’s FGM/C programme; the UNICEF Senegal representative and Tostan’s National Coordinator.
In addition, COPA representatives, including the task force’s President who is the new Chair of Senegal’s National Assembly’s Health and Social Affairs Committee, and AWEPA staff attended the conference.
The parliamentarians from across the sub-region discussed the legal framework, and political and cultural context surrounding FGM/C in their countries and heard from experts on the topic. One of the experts presented clinical images which were shocking to the audience and reinforced the message of why it is important to abandon the practice of FGM/C.
After the extensive and interesting interventions by an MP from each country, a presentation was given by Hon. Els Van Hoof, Political Coordinator of AWEPA’s FGM/C programme, about the Convention of Istanbul and the tools developed to tackle the issue of FGM/C using the “4Ps approach”: Prevention; Protection; Prosecution and integrated Policies.
Subsequently, the participants were split into two parallel working groups, whereby the first group focused on the theme: “Legislative aspects and measures necessary in the fight for the abandonment of FGM /C: which proposals?”
This group discussed the 4P approach and its application in their countries. For example, it was noted that, with regard to prevention, it is important to develop awareness-raising programmes for young women in local languages as is done in Mauritania and to include awareness-raising in school curriculums, as is the case in Burkina Faso.
With regard to action in countries with no FGM/C law yet, the group believed that women parliamentarians should be trained to carry a bill against FGM/C, including designing relevant arguments for strong advocacy regarding religious authorities.
In countries where a law does exist, the members of the working group concluded that it was important to develop legislative proposals to amend the existing legislation to further penalise the offender and strengthen the protection of women and girls by raising the requirement to medical confidentiality regarding the reporting of FGM/C cases. Furthermore, as a follow-up to this sub-regional conference, the group recommended workshops for sharing the findings of this conference with all members of their Parliament, starting with the relevant committees and existing networks in each Assembly.
The second working group discussed strategies regarding the sub-regional and cross border dimensions of FGM/C. This group focused on the preliminary text of statutes of an International Committee on FGM/C (Comite International des Parlementaires pour l ’abandon des MGF/E – CIPA MGF/E) and gave input on this draft. In addition, both working groups worked on a text of the Saly Declaration 2016”.
The Conference concluded with the adoption of the final version of the Saly Declaration 2016, and AWEPA, COPA MGF/E and an MP from each of the countries present signed the Statutes of the creation of the International Committee of Parliamentarians against FGM/C.
AWEPA hopes to soon give follow-up to this initiative and is ready to partner COPA on this, as addressing the issue of FGM/C from a sub-regional context and addressing the cross-border dimensions of FGM/C is considered essential for the full abandonment of the practice in the sub-region.
This video report from Senegalese broadcaster RTS1 provides an overview of the Conference and its objectives: