The brochure “Responding to female genital mutilation: A guide for key professionals” developed during the CHANGE project has been updated during the new CHANGE Plus project and translated into three more languages: French, Italian and Portuguese. The German and Dutch versions were also reprinted for further distribution. Additionally, a EU-wide English version containing a special part about legislation and strategies of the European Union was developed.
The prevention brochure facilitates basic knowledge about FGM and seeks to be a guideline for key professionals from different professional backgrounds to notice acute danger in order to be able to protect girls. In case of suspicions, the brochure gives instructions on how to act upon them. On top of that, the brochure aims at assisting on how to deal with affected women.
The German and English version can be ordered from TERRE DES FEMMES. The brochure can be downloaded for free in all other languages (French, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese) from http://www.change-agent.eu.
Although Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is legally prohibited in Germany and other EU countries, time and again many girls living in Europe are brought back to their countries of origin to be cut there. The EU parliament estimates that around 500.000 girls and women are affected by FGM in the European Union, and 180.000 girls and women in addition to that are endangered by it.
Therefore, for the first time ever, TERRE DES FEMMES will train six multipliers. The training is for the so-called Change Agents to be able to advocate the abolishment of FGM in their own communities after having gone through the training. Department manager and expert on FGM Idah Nabateregga illustrated the dimensions FGM has on health as well as social, legal and cultural dimensions. “Because they belong to the communities themselves, the Agents have a special access to the people, especially those who are hard to reach.” Nabateregga explained.
Altogether, 48 propagators in Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and France will be trained. The training is part of the two-year CHANGE Plus program, which is being co-financed by the EU commission. The first of the eight training units conducted by TERRE DES FEMMES took place on August 27, 2016.
At 9:30 in the morning, all seven participants were welcomed at Brunnenstraße. After a short introductory speech by Idah Nabateregga and project coordinator Charlotte Weil, the participants introduced themselves. Fatou Mandiang Diatta, Fadhumo Musa, Evariste Kapnang Tchaptchet, Tiranke Diallo, Colette Tchoumbou, Mai Ali and Isatou Barry all have African backgrounds, and all have declared war on FGM.
“It is our responsibility to change the world so that the next generation will not have to suffer Female Genital Mutilation anymore”, Fatou Diatta stated. The hiphop and soul singer also known as “Sister Fa” had to suffer the practice herself in her native Senegal. Just like the Somalian Fadhumo Musa. Almost all women in her country have had to undergo FGM. “As a woman who has had to experience this cruel practice herself, I think it is a form of child abuse. We have to protect our children!”, she demands.
Evariste Kapnang Tchaptechet has the same opinion. Although Female Genital Mutilation is not common in his native country Cameroon, it is in his wife´s, Tiranke Diallo. Tiranke comes from Guinea, where almost all women have been mutilated. “Since our daughter was born I have been involved against this practice, because I do not want my daughter or any other innocent girl to ever suffer from something like this! They shall have a better future!”, Evariste said. Colette Tchoumbou also comes from Cameroon. She wants to be trained as a CHANGE Agent to protect children from the dreadful practice as well as lay the groundwork to a better future for them. In Mai Alis home country, Northern Sudan, the FGM rate is higher than 80 per cent. She is an active member fighting for human and women´s rights in her community and has attended a number of workshops regarding them. On top of that, she is the co-founder of the campaign “My body belongs to me” against FGM. Isatou Barry was born in Gambia, where the prevalence rate of FGM is 75%. In the course of the CHANGE Agent training, she wants to learn as much as she can about the subject in order to gain convincing arguments against FGM she can use in her community work afterwards. She plans to involve the men especially in her work.
After a successful start of the training sessions and the first occasion of getting to know each other, TERRE DES FEMMES is looking forward to the future collaborations with the multipliers. The next training session will take place on September 17th, 2016 in TERRE DES FEMMES` main office.
The prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa is a globally known fact. Recently, for the first time, also Russia has become a focus of the public eye with regards to it. In the mainly Muslim-inhabited Northern Caucasus republic of Dagestan in Russia, Female Genital Mutilation is not uncommon. According to the human rights organisation Russian Justice Initiative, tens of thousands of girls living there have been cut. Normally, the procedure is done between the ages of two to three years, but sometimes also is performed on older girls.
The reaction of Muslim cleric Ismail Berdijew towards FGM has recently caused great outrage in Russia. Not only did Berdijew defend the cutting of women in mountain villages in Dagestan, but in addition to that suggested that the practice should be performed on all Russian women. Ismail Berdijew made Female Genital Mutilation appear harmless. The cutting served to fight “sexual immorality” and depravity, the Mufti said. It would not have harmful consequences on women´s health. He gained support for his statements from the archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church, Wselwolod Anatolijewitsch Tschaplin.
Female Genital Mutilation is not only a violation of women´s human rights and a form of child abuse, it also often has grave consequences for the victims. The operation can lead to severe pain, bleedings, infections (f.i. tetanus or HIV), bad wound healing or death, among other things. On top of that, affected women have long-term health risks, some of which are chronic infections and pain, problems with menstruating and urinating, and psychological problems like traumata and depression.
Ismail Berdijew has withdrawn his statements in the meantime and claims to have been misunderstood by the public. TERRE DES FEMMES severely condemns this misogynistic practice.
In the context of the EU-co-financed CHANGE Plus project, TERRE DES FEMMES and APF conduct educational trainings for the so-called CHANGE Agents. After their trainings, the Agents are expected to undertake educational work about FGM in their African communities and propagate its abolishment. In total, 48 propagators in Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and France receive such trainings. The agenda of the second training foresaw the subjects of gender and women´s rights as well as FGM and legal questions.
On September 17th, 2016, the second of eight training units took place in TERRE DES FEMMES´ main office in Berlin. The seven participants were received at 9:30 in the morning. After a short introductory speech by community manager Idah Nabateregga, the participants dedicated themselves to the subject of “Gender and Women´s Rights”. Perceptions of men and women in society were discussed and different exercises about them were done.
After a lunch break, Idah Nabateregga shed light on the legal situation regarding FGM in Europe with special focus on the situation in Germany. Proof of the growing attention Female Genital Mutilation is receiving can be found in the fact that the CHANGE Agents training was accompanied by a RTL 2 film team for 1.5 hours. Two interviews with Idah Nabateregga and Fatou Diatta (Sister Fa) as well as the training session were filmed.
In Germany, like in other EU countries, FGM is illegal. Nonetheless, time and time again girls living in Europe are brought back to their countries of origin and mutilated there. The EU parliament estimates that about 500.000 girls and women living in the EU are affected by FGM and another 180.000 are endangered by it.
On the same day, September 17th, 2016, a second training of the CHANGE Agents also took place in Lisbon. TERRE DES FEMMES ´project coordinator Charlotte Weil visited the partner organisation APF in Lisbon from 16-17 September 2016. APF´s project coordinator Duarte Vilar, community trainer Sónia Duarte Lopes as well as the manager of finances, Rita Barros, welcomed Charlotte to the APF main office and introduced her to the whole team. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss current project activities and organisational and financial issues.
An external expert, Catarina Moreira from the women´s rights organisation UMAR, conducted the training of the Portuguese CHANGE Agents regarding gender and legal dimensions of FGM on Saturday. She founded the organisation UMAR, which focussed on women´s rights and mainly on FGM. All twelve CHANGE Agents attended the training. Most of them are from Guinea-Bissau, which constitutes the largest African community in Portugal.
CHANGE Agent Filomena Djassi founded the Guinean women´s rights organisation MUSQUEBA. She said she participates in the CHANGE project because spreading knowledge about FGM is essential. “Knowledge is power, and our organisation fights for women´s rights”, she said. Cadidjatu Suncar Baldé, also a member of MUSQUEBA, added that “FGM is done to repress women. But we want to be free from all repression. Women and men are equal. We want the same rights and opportunities.”
The visit of APF was an important experience for both organisations, because it furthered the relationship between the project partners and created an opportunity for exchange and evaluation.
After this informative second training unit, TERRE DES FEMMES now is looking forward to the next training, which will take place on October 1st in the Berlin main office.
On 23rd September 2016, the second coordination meeting for all project partners of the EU-co-financed CHANGE Plus project took place in Amsterdam. FSAN hosted the meeting, all the other European project partners – TERRE DES FEMMES, AIDOS, APF, Coventry University, End FGM, Equipop and Stiftung Hilfe mit Plan attended it. TERRE DES FEMMES was represented by project coordinators Charlotte Weil, Linda Ederberg and community manager Idah Nabateregga.
The agenda of the meeting contained:
A simultaneous session for the community trainers served to the exchange as well as discussions about different approaches, training methods and challenges that arise from the community work. In addition to that, the planning, evaluation and support of behaviour change activities against FGM were discussed.
The meeting was an opportunity to speak about all project activities of the last six months, to evaluate the progress of the project as well as an exchange of experiences. On top of that, it helped tighten the relationship and culture of cooperation between the project partners.
On 30 September, Idah Nabateregga, TDF manager of the Female Genital Mutilation department, attended a symposium of the German AIDS-Hilfe (AIDS aid) on cooperation with African communities. Often, these communities are considered to be “hard to reach” for educational projects or health promotion offers – but hard to reach for whom, and why?
During the symposium, more than 80 experts from Germany and Europe discussed how a creative, sustainable and effective cooperation with African communities could look like. What does a diversity-oriented approach mean exactly? What is real commitment, what only fake participation? Which measures can be taken against the structural and social marginalisation of certain migration groups in order to promote more societal participation and better health chances?
Beside different workshops and a podium discussion, the mobile drama group AfroLebenPlus performed at the conference in Cologne. Community expert Idah Nabateregga also used the opportunity for exchange and networking with different experts, representatives of African projects and organisations as well as activists of African origin.
Recent UNICEF estimations assume that at least 200 million women and girls are currently affected from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), meaning about 70 million more than estimated in 2014. Through migration and fleeing, the problem has spread dramatically to additional regions with the effect that there are now also around 48.000 women affected by FGM living in Germany, for instance, and more than 9.000 girls (TERRE DES FEMMES: 2016) are endangered by it.
To ward off this danger and to enable encompassing protection for the survivors, it is necessary to sensitise and further educate those professional groups who come into contact with FGM the most, like social workers, gynaecologists, midwives, lawyers, the police, teachers and others.
Therefore, TERRE DES FEMMES will seize the occasion of the global “Zero Tolerance Day” against FGM on February 6, 2017, to hold a symposium together with the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend BMFSFJ). Among other things, the web-based platform for professionals will be launched there. The platform was developed under the EU-subsidised “United to end FGM” project together with ten European partner organisations and will be available in nine languages for the public by February 9, 2017 on the Internet free of charge. Additionally, activists and community representatives will have the chance to speak about the current situations and needs of the communities. The participants will be able to debate current subjects in small groups.
Location: Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, Glinkastr.24, 10117 Berlin
Date/ Time: 6 February 2017, 2pm – 6pm
On October 1, 2016, the third training in the context of the EU-wide project CHANGE Plus took place in Berlin. The training of propagators from various African diaspora communities is supposed to contribute to the conquest of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Europe. The subjects of this meeting were communicational and conflict management competences, which the multipliers should have mastery of, as well as the roles culture, tradition, identity and religion play in the context of FGM/C.
After an introduction into the subject, participant of the CHANGE Plus project and human rights activist Mai Ali took charge of the first part of the training session. By discussing exemplary cases and taking on other perspectives, the participants were prepared for possible conflict situations. Together, strategies were developed on how to behave in and deal with conflict situations.
Also, two Skype conference calls with two CHANGE Plus partner organisations holding training meetings the same day in Amsterdam and Lisbon were scheduled for the day. First, the CHANGE Agents from FSAN (Federation of Somali Associations Netherlands) introduced themselves to the Berlin Agents and vice versa. After that, the participants of APF (Family Planning Association) introduced themselves. A round of questions followed between the CHANGE Agents, which focussed on problems and possible solutions for the work in the respective communities.
After a lunch break, trainer and policy specialist on FGM, Idah Nabateregga, talked about the connection between FGM/C and culture, tradition, identity and religion. In this context, a Skype call with Fatoumata Samaké from Plan Mali was planned. The CHANGE Agents could exchange different strategies for fighting FGM with her and also talk about the legal situation in Mali as well as the influence of religious leaders.
We are happy that a personal exchange between the Berlin CHANGE Agents and the partner organisations FSAN in Amsterdam, APF in Lisbon and Plan Mali took place and are looking forward to the next CHANGE Plus meeting in November.
A radio journalist attended the second half of the training. Broadcasts on WDR and NDR channels will follow shortly. Through migration and fleeing, the problem has spread drastically to more regions, effecting now also around 48.000 women affected by FGM living in Germany, for instance, and more than 9.000 girls (TERRE DES FEMMES: 2016) endangered by it.
On October 12th, 2016, the work group of the German Federal NGO against Female Genital Mutilation held its first meeting in two years in the German Ministry of Family Affairs in Berlin. TERRE DES FEMMES department officer Idah Nabateregga took part as one of the representatives of the INTEGRA network. INTEGRA, a German network for the abolishment of Female Genital Mutilation, has been advocating the abolishment of FGM in Germany and worldwide since the year 2000. Various topics were discussed and the work of INTEGRA examined.
Furthermore, our department manager Linda Ederberg was invited to introduce our EU-projects “CHANGE Plus” and “United to end FGM”. We are happy to inform you that the representatives of the Ministry of Family Affairs and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees paid close attention to our reported experiences with the projects and will take them into consideration in their daily political work. On 6 February 2017, TERRE DES FEMMES will hold a nationwide conference together with the Ministry of Family Affairs for professional groups who are in contact with affected girls. The results and activities of both EU projects will be presented there.
On 25 and 26 October 2016, our department manager Idah Nabateregga from our FGM-department took part in a workshop organised by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Valetta, Malta.
EASO collects information about “countries of origin” of asylum seekers among other things. This information is important for those responsible in the asylum process and for decisions of asylum grants. EASO organises country-and subject-specific workshops to share information about “countries of origin”, discuss those with different experts and to collect information for queries of EU member states.
Experts of national asylum agencies, EU representatives or those working for UNHCR, UNICEF and other NGO´s attend the workshop on Female Genital Mutilation in order to present information about Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in the different “countries of origin”. There will be presentations from diverse experts who will share country-specific information about Senegal, Gambia, Sudan, Somalia and Niger amongst others.
The TERRE DES FEMMES department specialist Idah Nabateregga presented prevalence rates, social and religious contexts and risks of FGM/C as well as reactions of authorities in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. Also, projects of our partner organisations Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM) in Sierra Leone and Bangr Nooma in Burkina Faso will be topics of discussion. Together with endangered girls, traditional midwives and cutters, parents, medical personnel, political and religious leaders, the police and teachers, they advocate the abolishment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
The European network End FGM held a conference concerning the topics of asylum and Female Genital Mutilation on November 8, 2016. End FGM is a European umbrella organisation, which consists of 15 national non-governmental-organisations dedicated to implementing sustainable measures against Female Genital Mutilation.
Since January 2016 TERRE DES FEMMES has been a member of the organisation.
The subject of the conference was Female Genital Mutilation and gender-based vulnerability in the context of EU asylum procedures. Objectives are, amongst others, to analyse the reform of the Common European Asylum Systems (CEAS) and the challenges it poses together, exchange successful approaches as well as collect the different perspectives of all participants.
The agenda of the conference contained:
The conference addresses NGO´s who work together with refugees affected or threatened by FGM, experts of the health sector, lawyers, political decision makers at EU level, scientists, as well as women affected or threatened by FGM or any other gender-based violence who have already passed the asylum procedure. The conference is also open to an interested public. TERRE DES FEMMES is being represented at the conference by or policy specialist Linda Ederberg.
The fourth training session of the future CHANGE Agents in the context of the EU-wide CHANGE Plus project took place on November 5, 2016 in TERRE DES FEMMES´main office in Berlin. The training of the so-called CHANGE Agents from different African diaspora communities is supposed to contribute to the abolishment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Europe. As special guests and experts TERRE DES FEMMES was delighted to be able to invite Andreas Ritter and Jutta Pliefke from Pro Familia and Dr. Christoph Zerm. The topics of the training were sexual and reproductive health, health consequences of FGM/C, reconstructive surgery and pregnancy.
After a short welcome by community manager Idah Nabateregga, the experts from Pro Familia took over. First, they gave a short introduction to Pro Familia´s work, to then continue with a small exercise introducing the subjects of sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights. Andreas Ritter and Jutte Pliefke succeeded in making the subject tangible for all participants. After their presentation, the two experts were up for and gave detailed answers to the many questions the Change Agents had. Jutte Pliefke and Andreas Ritter ended their presentation with an exercise, the so-called “power walk”, which the Agents can integrate into their soon-to-start community work.
After a lunch break, the gynaecologist Dr. Christoph Zerm took over. Dr. Christoph Zerm has been dedicating himself to the subject of FGM for over 20 years now and is one of the few experts in the field in Germany. At the beginning all participants were encouraged to write one or two questions they wanted answered by the end of the training on a piece of paper. Especially the reconstructive surgery and the consequences FGM/C can have on pregnancies were of great interest to the CHANGE Agents. Dr. Christoph Zerm responded thoroughly to all questions. But first of all, he explained the anatomy of the female genital and the different types of FGM, which he demonstrated using illustrations and photographs. Thereafter, he spoke about possible operations and explained some of the operations he has performed himself in more detail, for instance one after a tumor development as a result of FGM. For reconstructions, for example after cases of infibulation, he referred to Dr. O´Dey, the head of the centre for reconstructive surgery of female genitalia at the Luisenhospital in Aachen, as an expert.
Finally, Dr. Zerm answered the many questions the CHANGE Agents had regarding FGM/C and pregnancy. He shared information about health consequences for the affected as well as the rights and obligations of medical doctors. TERRE DES FEMMES thanks Andreas Ritter, Jutta Pliefke and Dr. Christoph Zerm for the captivating and informative training most warmly.
After the death of two newborn baby girls in Pueblo Rico, it became publicly known in 2007 that FGM is practised in Colombia. Both girls had died from the grave consequence of the practice. The Emberá, the second largest ethnic minority in Colombia, is the only ethnicity so far known to practise FGM in Latin America.
About 230 000 Emberá live in Colombia alone. In Panama and Ecuador, members of the ethnic group can also be found. Many Emberá men only found out after it was made public that FGM was being practised amongst their ethnic group. Also, many women only realised after the birth of their first daughter that their ethnicity practised FGM. Amongst the Emberá, FGM is known under the term curacíon (Spanish for “healing”). They believe an uncut vulva will turn into a penis. The clitoris is seen as a defect that must be corrected. Further explanations for the practice were the prevention of promiscuity or of bad wives. The Emberá girls are mutilated on the day of their birth or shortly thereafter. In the process, the clitoris is partially or wholly removed.
After Female Genital Mutilation among the Emberá was brought to daylight in 2007, the Colombian ministry of health, different human rights representatives as well as the United Nations campaigned for a politic of education among the Emberá with the goal of ending it. There are many theories concerning the practice´s origins. One of them claims the practice came to South America along with slavery. Another theory proposes that some time ago, a hermaphrodite had been born into the Emberá community and the midwife had regarded it as necessary to circumcise the girl to prevent it turning into a boy.
There is no official data on the number of girls who underwent Female Genital Mutilation in Colombia. The UNFPA (United Nations Populations Fund) conducted anthropological studies and information campaigns amongst midwives and women for several years. In 2012, Female Genital Mutilation was finally prohibited in Colombia. Emberá leaders claim that FGM has not been practised in two reservations since then. But especially in remote regions, informational campaigns still prove to be difficult. What makes the work even more difficult is the reluctance of many women to speak with outsiders about the “curacíon”. Every woman has the right to an unscathed life. TERRE DES FEMMES condemns the misogynistic practice of Female Genital Mutilation most severely.
On November 09, 2016, TDF policy specialist Idah Nabateregga attended a meeting of the newly founded (Oct 12, 2016) Bund-Länder-NRO AG work team´s subdivision concerning itself with FGM. For the first time, the work team met at the Ministry of Family Affairs to talk about designing projects against FGM.
The situation of women and girls who have fled their countries was given special attention during the meeting. Several members of the INTEGRA-network were invited to share their experiences with working in different communities throughout Germany. To overcome FGM, it is of the utmost importance that the communities are included in the process. Besides members of INTEGRA, also representatives of different ministries are active in the FGM-subdivision.
The second last CHANGE Agent training in Berlin was held on Nov 19, 2016 in TERRE DES FEMMES’ main office. After a short welcome speech by Idah Nabateregga, the psychologist and head of TDF´s counselling centre, Katrin Schwedes, took over. As an expert, she introduced self-protection strategies to the CHANGE agents. At the beginning, the CHANGE Agents were encouraged to write down their wishes and expectations regarding the training. After that, a short video explaining the neurological effects traumata have on different regions of the brain was showed to introduce the subject. After Katrin summarized the video in her own words, the CHANGE Agents led a heated discussion about trauma trigger that could occur in daily life, their consequences as well as possible strategies to deal with traumatized persons. It was very important to the CHANGE Agents to learn these strategies.
By using examples from their own work, Katrin Schwedes and Alexandra Kampe, a member of staff of TERRE DES FEMMES counselling centre, further emphasised the complexity and individuality of each case. At around 12:30 p.m., two employees of N24 arrived. They conducted interviews with the CHANGE Agents and filmed small excerpts of the training.
After a lunch break, CHANGE Plus project coordinator Charlotte Weil started a Skype call with the partner organisation Equipop (Équilibres & Populations) in France to give the CHANGE Agents in both countries an opportunity to exchange their experiences and planned activities. The remaining time was used to learn about self-care strategies for the CHANGE Agents and the importance of developing and applying coping skills.
Despite the difficult and sensitive subject, Katrin Schwedes succeeded in creating a ‘safe space’ in which the CHANGE Agents felt secure. TERRE DES FEMMES gives many thanks to Katrin Schwedes and Alexandra Kampe for this educational and interesting training as well as their readiness to share their own experiences with the CHANGE Agents.
The annual midwives forum took place on 18th and 19th November in Mainz this year. TDF member and midwife Hedwig von Knorre – also active in the workgroup about FGM – represented TDF with an info booth there. This year, the forum saw almost 1700 visitors who were either midwives themselves or working in neighbouring professions. Von Knorre helped to inform the professional public with her information material more about FGM in Germany. Unfortunately, still only a few working in the field have received sufficient training about pregnancy and delivery of affected women.
A great amount of TDF-information material was handed out, conceptualized both for affected women themselves as well as for professionals working in the social, medical and pedagogical sectors. The brochures are available in seven languages and, like all our material, can be downloaded for free from our website.
We want to thank Hedwig von Knorre for her commitment and longstanding dedication!
On 22nd of November 2016, Christa Stolle and Dr. Idah Nabateregga met with Members of Parliament Gabriela Heinrich (deputy speaker on human rights of the German Social Democrat party SPD) and Michaela Engelmeier (designated SPD reporter in the German committee of developmental affairs) to exchange about Female Genital Mutilation. Two further Members of Parliament attended the meeting.
The two MP´s often engage themselves with the subject of FGM. Recently, Mrs. Heinrich spoke in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council about a report on FGM. Her speech sparked reactions: it was remarked that in Germany so far, doctors, for instance, are not obliged to report occurrences of FGM amongst their patients or patients in danger of having to undergo FGM to the responsible authorities. The two MP´s were informed about TERRE DES FEMMES stance on this fact and the political implications arising therefrom.
For years, TERRE DES FEMMES has been demanding obligatory reporting to child protective services. Other important demands and topics besides the obligatory reporting were discussed, as well: further training about FGM for different groups of professions, collaboration with youths, awareness campaigns in affected communities and binding medical check-ups for all children in Germany – independent from sex or origin. This would not only allow detections of cases of Female Genital Mutilation, but also cases of sexual abuse. All of this could be subsumed in a National Action Plan. Mrs. Heinrich and Mrs. Engelmeier accepted our suggestions for further lobbying.
TERRE DES FEMMES thanks them most warmly for their cooperation and commitment to protect children and end FGM in Germany.
Female Genital Mutilation is a global phenomenon and happens worldwide. The WHO estimates that 200 Million women worldwide are affected by it. More than 48000 women living in Germany are affected and around 9300 girls and young women are in danger of having to undergo the practice.
To raise public awareness for the new results and insights of our work, in 2017 there will again be a book table campaign in numerous libraries and bookshops across Germany. By presenting books (Link zu PDF-Buchtipps) all concerning themselves with FGM, we want to broaden the general knowledge about the subject in Germany and encourage active involvement. Only if profound knowledge surpasses the practice itself can we jointly put an end to Female Genital Mutilation. Therefore, we hereby want to warmly invite you to take part in our campaign and ask your local bookshops or libraries if they would lend some of their presentation space to the subject of Female Genital Mutilation. To do so, please forward our list of books to your local bookshops and/or libraries.
We would be happy to send you flyers or information material to display.
We would be delighted if you supported this campaign!
Furthermore, TERRE DES FEMMES makes use of the International Day “Zero Tolerance towards Female Genital Mutilation” on February 6 for the continuous battle of the human rights violation. We have been fighting to end FGM for over 30 years now. Together with the EU-wide projects “CHANGE” and “CHANGE Plus”, both coordinated by TERRE DES FEMMES, we support trainings of local propagators (CHANGE Agents from different countries) in order to achieve the abolishment of Female Genital Mutilation across Europe. As the German partner organisation we contribute to the EU-co-financed project “United to END FGM” by having created a multilingual online learning platform for different fields of profession worldwide. The platform will be launched on February 6, 2017 in the context of a conference of the German Ministry of Family Affairs in Berlin.
This conference primarily addresses professionals who come into contact with survivors of FGM and/or girls and women in danger of having to undergo FGM during their everyday work. The professional fields in question are therefore the medical sector, counselling, and the educational (amongst others). Extensive support of the survivors as well as improved protection of the endangered is needed urgently, which is one reason why it is so important raise awareness among the professionals in question. The learning platform seeks to achieve one part of this educational work and can be reached by everyone interested in the topic from February 6, 2017 on. It will be presented online in nine languages and is free of charge.
Besides the launch, several community representatives and CHANGE Agents will report on the situation and needs of African communities. There will be enough time to speak with the Agents and community members as well as numerous experts from different professional groups about the subject.
The last training of CHANGE Agents took place on November 25, 2016 in TERRE DES FEMMES´ main office in Berlin. Our policy specialist on Female Genital Mutilation, Dr. Idah Nabateregga, moderated the event. The objective of the meeting was to reflect on past trainings, exchange impressions and interiorise core statements of the training series. Content-wise, the meeting laid its main focus on the analysis of the communities and the mechanisms through which the Agents would be able to reach the communities. The training opened with the question of what exactly the CHANGE Agents imagined their work with the communities would look like and what the best way to reach them could be.
One especially important aspect concerning the cooperation with the communities is, according to the Agents, mutual respect. Without respect for the other´s culture a dialogue is said not to be possible. The Agents agreed that FGM must be acknowledged as a shared problem in order to break with traditions and induce lasting change. The question of guilt in particular is a sensitive topic, as not the community itself, but the lack of access to education is to be held responsible for the continuous practising of FGM, one Change Agent said. Also, a thorough illustration of the legal consequences throughout the communities is said to be necessary, as such deterrence could prove effective in preventing future mutilations. Furthermore, patience plays a big role while dealing with the communities, as social structures and behaviours can only be changed over long periods of time. As further key competences in dealing with the communities, negotiating skills, sensitivity and innovative thinking were named, because by using those conflicts can be avoided and the communities can restructure their social norms by a change of perspective.
The training on 25 November 2016 was the last meeting of the year between the Agents and trainer Idah Nabateregga. In the year to come, 2017, the CHANGE Agents will work intensively within their respective communities. Three activities are scheduled between January and September. Additionally, ten exchange meetings are planned to take place between January and October. TDF’s policy specialist Dr. Idah Nabateregga will actively attend the meetings and activities.
An IWPR (Institute for War and Peace Reporting) investigation has discovered that hundreds of girls from the ethnic Avar community in eastern Georgia are being forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
The Georgian government has pledged to investigate following the revelation that girls in the villages of Tivi, Saruso and Chantliskure in the Kvareli district, which has a large Avar population, are being cut in childhood. Georgia´s constitution guarantees every person freedom of religion and belief, but it also enshrines the right to a healthy life. Moreover, the international convention for the protection of children´s rights, to which Georgia is bound, also applies. The Georgian authorities told IWPR that they had no prior knowledge of this practice and that no local NGOs or human rights bodies had reported that FGM was being carried out anywhere in the country.
Georgians generally know very little about the Avar community, a native ethnic group in the Caucasus that was historically based in the mountainous part of the Russian republic of Dagestan. As a result of trade relations with the neighbouring Georgian district of Kvareli in the 18th century, some Avars settled there and around 3,000 of their descendants remain today. Although isolated from their homeland and living in a remote area of Georgia, the Avars have staunchly preserved their own culture and traditions, including the Avar language, their cuisine, wedding and funeral rites and religious customs. As a rule, Avars marry only within their own community.
In August, a report published by the Legal Initiative for Russia NGO revealed that tens of thousands of Avar women and girls had undergone FGM in Dagestan. TDF reported on this in September 2016.
The origin of the practice of FGM in Dagestan is unknown, explained Saida Siradjudinova, one of the report´s authors and a doctoral student of political science and ethnic policy at the North Caucasian Academy of Civil Service in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. “The ethnographer Yuri Karpov has attributed female circumcision to pre-Islamic customs… but this is only his hypothesis. It would be wrong to reference only that. There is no exact source explaining how female circumcision arose in Dagestan. The tradition moved to Georgia with [the Avars] who settled there,” she said.
TERRE DES FEMMES demands funding for research on regions where FGM is practiced and granting of funds for educational projects in regions with high rates of acceptance.
From 6th–8th December 2016, FGM department specialist Dr. Idah Nabateregga supported the further education series Female Genital Mutilation: consequences for affected women and girls – medical and psychosocial care work hosted by FaZIT (Brandenburg´s professional counselling service on immigration, integration and tolerance) as an expert on the subject.
The further education series addressed professional groups coming into contact with affected girls and women and who are not familiar with the psychological and physical consequences Female Genital Mutilation has. Affected women and girls suffer from the consequences of FGM for the rest of their lives. Inflammations of the genital area, incontinence, fistulas and other severe problems are common after mutilations, all of which can lead to overwhelming feelings of shame and even social isolation among the affected.
As a result of increasing immigration of women from countries where FGM is widespread, also Brandenburg professionals will come into contact with affected girls and women more and more often. The objective of the education series is therefore to raise awareness about dealings with the affected among these professionals as well as inform them about medical and psychosocial aid services.
Together with the INTEGRA network, TERRE DES FEMMES has put together a nationwide list with contact persons (pdf-file) offering medical, legal and social services concerning FGM.
On December 3, The Guardian published a brave and moving opinion piece about the 72-year-old American artist Renee Bergstrom who was genitally mutilated in 1947 by a Christian doctor. You can find a link to her story here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/02/fgm-happened-to-me-in-white-midwest-america
Bergstrom, however, is not the only white Christian woman who had to endure the practice. Here are three further case studies published on a site trying to raise awareness against the very common practise of male circumcision in the USA, but also against any kind of genital mutilation:
The first woman sharing her story was only 30 years old at the time of the publication. She has an Irish-Catholic and Jewish background. Her Jewish mother had converted to Catholicism when she married her father. She reports on having been mutilated as a toddler by the same paediatrician who circumcised her brothers. Her clitoral hood was removed along with her inner labia when she was two years old. She only learned in this in her late twenties, after several sex partners had commented on the unusually “perfect” form of her vagina, finally leading her to ask her gynaecologist if anything about her was not normal. He told her the truth – that she had been “circumcised”. After months of demanding research, she finally obtained the records of the paediatrician who had performed the operation – at her mother´s request. When she confronted her mother with this proof, her mother adamantly told her that she had always done what was best for her children and had no regrets, but did not want to speak of it. Today, among other things, she suffers even from the lightest contact with her underwear, which irritates her overexposed clitoris.
The second case history is that of woman who is over 60 years old today and who was genitally mutilated in 1950´s USA. She describes herself as a “white, Anglo-Saxon protestant woman”. She, too, was robbed of her clitoral hood and inner labia. She only found this out when she was over 50 years old. She had been a very happy child until she was in the first grade, she writes. After that, she had led a life full of anger and resentment, rejecting everyone who wanted to be close to her, and had wanted to be dead without knowing why.
Later, during her work as a crisis counsellor, she started working to prevent the circumcision of boys. After she had been involved in this for a couple of years and after a series of interesting “coincidences”, as she puts it, she discovered she had been circumcised, too. All of a sudden, everything made sense to her – she had been traumatized and her feelings and behaviour had been, for all these years, those of a traumatized person. She found a therapist whom she could trust and finally, with his help, could overcome her trauma. Today, she is a hypnotherapist herself and has written an autobiography titled The Rape of Innocence, which is available on Amazon.
With the help of her book, she hopes to reach more women who have suffered Female Genital Mutilation in the USA and who might want to get in touch with her. The third tale of suffering tells the story of an Irish/English Canadian woman who is also over 60 years old today. At the point in time she shared her story on the site, she had just learned a few weeks before that she had been genitally mutilated. Through comparing her own vagina with pictures of vaginas on the Internet, she discovered that parts of her own were missing. Thereupon, she called her youngest sister, who confirmed that there was something in the upper vaginal region you could feel and that felt good to touch: the clitoris. Interested, she called her other sister. The other sister did not want to speak about the subject. She only told her that she wasn´t interested in self-exploration and that sex had always been painful. Looking back, she writes, she has reason to believe her sister had also been “cut”.
Confused, the Canadian then began to research the net for further information and finally found out that a procedure called clitoridectomy (surgical removal of the clitoris) had been conducted in North America into the mid-fifties, had been covered by Blue Cross, the largest health insurance company in North America until the mid-´70´s, and not completely banned in the U.S. until 1996.
Soon after learning this, she began to have flashbacks. She remembered, as a child of 3 or 4, having “something” she could hold on to “down there”. When she asked her mother about it, the mother, a staunch Catholic of the extreme variety, told her that she was upset, disturbed and actually did not want the thing she was giving her attention to. Therefore, she would make her “nice and pretty”. The Canadian recalls nothing of the actual procedure, but has had flashbacks of events after the procedure: of her mother tending the area on numerous occasions and telling her every time she was “nice and pretty” now.
At this point, despite the flashbacks, the Canadian still did want to believe what she already knew. Still, she showed her vagina to a friend she trusted. At last, this friend told her the sad truth: the head of her clitoris as well as her clitoral hood had been removed. There was no scar tissue to be seen, no discolouration– nice and pretty!
More flashbacks followed. Memories of intense pain in the genital area after the operation, of how much it hurt to urinate. She also developed strong phantom pain in her genital region, which she had repressed for all these years. She now has an explanation why she often goes into dissociative states, why she is so easily frightened and insecure and always needs reassurance – a part of her never overcome her childhood trauma and therefore never grew up.
Also regarding her sexuality, she says about herself that she never grew up enough to be a sexually mature woman, instead always did what her husband wanted, like a little girl. As she herself fatalistically puts it: “One will never know what one never knew.” It is, in fact, well documented that Female Genital Mutilation also has a history in Western societies. In the 19th century, for instance, it was practised in Europe to “cure” all kinds of “female maladies” like hysteria, epilepsy, catalepsy or masturbation. It was also done simply for “hygienic” reasons. Because medical personnel always performed the operations for what seemed like necessary health reasons, they were conceived as something totally different than the “barbaric traditions” of so-called “primitive people”.
TERRE DES FEMMES condemns such forms of medicalised Female Genital Mutilation most severely. Female Genital Mutilation is always a severe violation of human rights and constitutes a lifelong injury. FGM has been and is practised by many different groups worldwide. Survivors suffer intensely from the psychological and physical consequences. TERRE DES FEMMES demands thorough information campaigns about the subject, both for the public and the practising communities themselves. Every woman has the right to physical integrity!
Hulverscheidt, Marion. Medizingeschichte: Weibliche Genitalverstümmelung im Europa des 19. Jahrhunderts. Mabuse-Verlag. 2002.