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The Value of Learning Together: A Regional Parliamentary Conference on FGM/C

February 21, 2017 until February 22, 2017

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Nairobi, Kenya – AWEPA organised a Regional Parliamentary Conference on FGM/C in collaboration with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA), the Kenya National Assembly and Plan International Kenya. The conference entitled:  ‘Value of Learning together –Youth, Elders, Government, Women and Legislators as custodians of positive culture for our girls and women’ took place in Hotel InterContinental in Nairobi on 21 and 22 February 2017.

The Conference brought together more than 120 participants. Attendees included Members of the Parliaments of Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Senegal, and a Member of the Belgian Parliament who is also the Political Coordinator of AWEPA’s FGM/C programme. In addition, representatives of the anti-FGM Board; relevant ministries; UN representatives; members of local communities, including reformed practitioners, religious leaders, health officials, anti-FGM/C campaigners and community elders, as well as KEWOPA, Plan and AWEPA staff attended the Conference. 

In the opening session, representatives from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Kenya, UNFPA, the Kenya Anti-FGM Board, AWEPA and Plan addressed the audience, followed by opening remarks by  Hon. Dr. James Nyikal, Member of the Kenya National Assembly, who officially opened the Conference.

After the opening session, extensive and interesting interventions were given by MPs from each country about the situation of FGM/C in their country and the parliamentary action on the abandonment of FGM/C taken so far. Hon. Els Van Hoof spoke about the role of AWEPA with regard to the abandonment of FGM/C, the existing anti-FGM/C laws in Belgium and the Convention of Istanbul (Council of Europe). This Convention on Violence against women is known for the “4Ps approach”: Prevention; Protection; Prosecution and integrated Policies.

In the discussion followed, different issues were addressed. Among others that men and boys need to be involved; as perceive beneficiaries of the practice, it is important to include them in the dialogues and strategies to end FGM/C. Besides, it was mentioned that the plight of the innocent young girls who are forcibly mutilated needs to be taken into account. In addition, challenges in the fight againstFGM/C were discussed, like the religious misinterpretations, culture and stereotypes that follow the practice, lack of political goodwill to enact or implement the law, socialization of survivors back into the community, and medicalization of FGM/C.

Subsequently, one of the MPs from each delegation participated in the panel debate, which focused on the theme of regional cooperation on the practice of FGM/C. The debates highlighted the presence of legislative and other interventions against FGM/C in the regions represented and an enthusiasm to enact policy for the abandonment of FGM in countries where there was no legislation (Somalia). The draft of the Nairobi Declaration was addressed and input was asked from the participants to this draft.

The second day of the Conference focused mostly on case studies from the field in Kenya. During two interesting and moving sessions, presentations were given by an academia; a fistula survivor; an Imam; a Bishop; a representative of the Ameru council of Elder (Njuri Njeke) (opinion leaders); representatives of the organisation MenEngage; a principal of school presenting the Alternative Rights of Passage Curriculum; a Chief, a reformed circumciser; a representative from the Judiciary; and a representative of the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions. There was consensus among the participants  that while the involvement of men was important there was need for complimenting interventions among the players against FGM/C. There was an appeal for enhanced reporting of FGM/C cases and uptake of available judicial services (court users committees).

The Conference was closed by Hon. Joyce Laboso, the Deputy Speaker of the Kenya National Assembly and concluded with the adoption of the final draft of the Nairobi Declaration. This Declaration is as a milestone towards ending FGM/C across the region. The Nairobi Declaration provides a framework to monitor the progress towards ending FGM/C and AWEPA hopes to soon provide a follow-up on this declaration in each of the countries, as well as in the region.

Background:

This activity is part of Obligation to Protect (O2P): Agents of Change Unite against FGM/C programme, financed by the Government of the Netherlands.
AWEPA and Plan work together on this four-year programme (2014-2017), which is implemented in  Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, targeting local communities, civil society and the legislative branches of each country. In the framework of the programme, AWEPA focuses on the parliamentary component, Plan on the community outreach component.

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