Despite the fact that I wasn't able to follow it fully and that I'm not so familiar with twitter, I managed to take part to yesterday's twitter chat on Ending FGM, you can follow up the conversation using these hashtags: #EndFGM #YGAVB.
Yes, social networks are cool to connect people around the world and share ideas and experiences, though I found a bit limitating the space offered by Twitter.
In trying to depict what is needed to EndFGM several issues showed up to be relevant:
- Working with communities
- Connecting generations at a community level
- The role of Law
- Encouraging the raise of positive narratives to empower women
- The role of Social Networks and Media
- The involvement of Men in anti FGM campaigns
- Training Religious leaders in Islamic cultures
- The role of NGOs
- Encouraging storytelling
Enough stuff to write a book about these issues, which I tried to do writing THE CUT.
Although I uphold all of the above, the things that I feel to reflect on now are:
The role of the Law: I wish every country to have a law which bans FGM and Early Marriage. Though the law itself cannot and will not eradicate FGM. The function of the law is to protect people from harm, to promote common benefits. Now, if a government issues a law to ban a traditional cultural practice, its first duty is to address the issue to all the people. We cannot imagine to prosecute entire communities on the assumption that there is a law, we have the responsibility to let people know why the law was made and why the subject of the law has to be considered a crime or an offense.
So Information and education are key.
When I recently read, after the conviction of three indians of the Bohra community the imam, midwife and mother in Australia for cutting two sisters, comments from activists like "We have won", as much as I felt the right thing was done, I see that there's still a gap to fill on a larger level, We cannot imagine that populating prisons with parents, midwives, imams will end FGM. That mother, that midwife, that imam, needed to receive a mandatory training on FGM and serve 3 years as community service training members of their community. In rural areas in Ethiopia, Somalia, Senegal, Kenya local midwives should be trained to change and convert their role as anti FGM activists and instructors. In some countries it happens.
We will really win when will have a four generations of people come together by will and mark the change by saying NO to FGM.
Note that, being FGM child abuse, so a form of violence, violence is cultural and only a cultural change will eradicate it.
The role of NGOs.
I worked enough in my early twenties in NGOs', big and small, to understand their basic dynamics, how things work.
Yesterday's chat brought up the issue which made me think about what Edna Adan said in a talk, that money should be spent wisely when thinking at strategies to end FGM. We don't need mega international conventions to share our experiences. Technology (more sophisticated than twitter) provides us a bunch of other ways to connect and share. We don't need activists travelling to another continent, sleeping in 4 stars hotels, eating "exotic" foods to feel they have achieved something.
Every country has its own activists, some more than others, and Ngos should sponsor them to work on their territory, in their community. On the other hand, as much as I'm promoting confrontation and dialogue as essential tools to progress and make changes in this case, when the life of girls is at high risk, we should switch to other ways of connecting so that all that money spent in hotels, flights, restaurants will go to empower girls and boys, elders, communities. Live exchanges programs should be planned carefully and well targeted. Also some activists in FGM practicing countries will be able to dedicate full time to this cause if they can have a wage to rely on. Not all are in the position to volounteer and important issues like FGM , needs people who can devote full time to the cause.
As someone said in yesterday's chat, change starts from the ground and I would add from inside.
We should encourage the raise of sustainable grassroot's organizations and possibly with local money. If local sponsors could invest in local activists/programs that would make what I call an organic changing strategy. Which should be more effective.
Many activists in FGM countries lament that they don't have enough funds and the only ones they can get is from international NGOs. But according to a logic of sustainability we have to keep in mind that international Ngos often belongs to lobbies and have deals with governements in developing countries. No one can run away from statistics, with all the billions of euros, pounds, dollars donated in charity, for example in Africa, to eradicate poverty, lack of water, famine, desease, the whole African continent would have been healed. But things show a different picture.
So if honest local investors start to invest in their human resources (in this case activists) things might change from the ground.
I know this won't make me much popular, but is what I think.
Along with other activists I wrote a letter addressed to the media, asking to be more inclusive when it comes to FGM, we need to raise a public dialogue, we need to inform before criminalizing. We need to connect countries, communities, people, experiences.
I uphold this. That's also how social media can play a role, creating spaces for new narratives and also positive narratives that can empower people to take a stand and start questioning what is wrong with FGM, where dialogue becomes the center of the changing process.
About the power of storytelling and more specifically how Art can serve as a tool towards healing to overcome the trauma but also as a tool of empowerement through which strenghten self esteem and identity, I wrote a book: THE CUT THE POWER OF ART AS RESISTANCE TO BREAK THE SILENCE ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION which pretty much offers a different perspective on how to use Art to address issues like FGM.
Last but not least, I would love to say a word to all those who work within the frame of this cause, that we should all work jointly together. I know some activists around the world, in strong patriarchal societies, who work to end FGM often face sexism, rivalry and lack of attention on their work and this simply shouldn't happen.