Political CoordinatorHon. Els van Hoof, Belgium
Senior Parliamentary AdvisorHon. Katharina Kucharowits, Austria
Worldwide, an estimated 200 million girls and women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and more than three million girls are at risk of being subjected to FGM/C every year in Africa alone (UNICEF, 2016). According to the European Parliament, approximately 500,000 girls and women living in Europe have undergone FGM/C and another 180,000 are at risk each year.
AWEPA’s engagement with FGM/C dates back to 2009, when it was decided that the organisation would prioritise the abandonment of FGM/C in its work. This decision was taken by the AWEPA Partnership Council (with the Women’s Caucus of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) taking the lead), the AWEPA Eminent Advisory Board and members of AWEPA. Since then, a large number of parliamentary activities have taken place.
The programme’s overall objective is to enhance the capacity of African parliaments to exercise their oversight, representative and legislative functions with regard to FGM/C. AWEPA is uniquely placed to support parliamentarians as key catalysts for ending FGM/C. It has a wide network of parliamentarians in both Europe and Africa and partners with the UN, civil society organizations and other branches of government to abandon the practice of FGM/C.
AWEPA’s FGM/C programme aims to contribute to an increased capacity among parliamentarians to legislate issues pertaining to the protection of women and girls from violence, including FGM/C, as well as establishing linkages with communities requiring support towards abandonment.
The objective of the joint AWEPA’s/Plan Nederland Programme: Obligation to Protect (O2P) Agents of Change unite against FGM/C is to promote the abandonment of FGM/C within one generation in selected communities in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. To achieve this, AWEPA works to enhance legislative and budgetary actions taken by MPs, as well as strengthening the capacity of the local government to influence behaviour change in target communities and to improve the implementation of existing laws through law enforcement mechanisms.
Example of activities
From 30 May – 1 June 2016 AWEPA organized a Sub-Regional Parliamentary Conference on FGM/C in Saly, Senegal. This Conference brought together some 35 participants. Attendees included Members of the National Assemblies of Senegal (including the Chair of the Health and Social Affairs Committee who is Chair of the Comité de pilotage (« task force ») pour l’accélération de l’abandon des MGF/E (COPA MGF/E), Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea-Bissau; a number of experts on the topic of FGM/C; a Member of the Belgian Parliament; the UNICEF Senegal representative, Tostan’s National Coordinator and AWEPA staff. 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. Hon. Els Van Hoof, Political Coordinator of AWEPA’s FGM/C programme gave a presentation 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.
The above 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. The creation of the International Committee of Parliamentarians against FGM/C was an important achievement with MPs from Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea-Bissau being members.