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Using knowledge against gender discrimination

Yassir A/Gadir of the male UNV associates/community workers discussing with one of the community members who was declaring that FGM is a harmful practice that should not be practiced on girls. Abu Seeid area in Omdurman Locality, Khartoum State, Sudan. (Photo: Sara Elhadi)Yassir A/Gadir of the male UNV associates/community workers discussing with one of the community members who was declaring that FGM is a harmful practice that should not be practiced on girls. Abu Seeid area in Omdurman Locality, Khartoum State, Sudan. (Photo: Sara Elhadi)Community target members reading one of the IEC materials (FGM leaflet) distributed during the mobile radio event in Abu Seeid area in Omdurman Locality, Khartoum State, Sudan. (Photo: Sara Elhadi)Community target members reading one of the IEC materials (FGM leaflet) distributed during the mobile radio event in Abu Seeid area in Omdurman Locality, Khartoum State, Sudan. (Photo: Sara Elhadi)Hanadi A/Mageed, in grey, one of the female UNV associates/community workers discussing the health complications that occur to females as a result of FGM with one of the community members who attended the mobile radio event at Abu Seeid area in Omdurman Locality, Khartoum State, Sudan. (Photo: Sara Elhadi)Hanadi A/Mageed, in grey, one of the female UNV associates/community workers discussing the health complications that occur to females as a result of FGM with one of the community members who attended the mobile radio event at Abu Seeid area in Omdurman Locality, Khartoum State, Sudan. (Photo: Sara Elhadi)
23 August 2007

“Midwife Bahga, I will never forget how I have suffered and still do,” said 13-year old Mehad, “I underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) at your hands.”  Addressing an awareness-raising session at a girls’ school, Midwife Bahga confessed, “I did not do this out of ill will, but out of ignorance.”  FGM is a fundamental violation of human rights that causes severe pain, trauma, sexual dysfunction, birth and other health complications.  Around 89% of women in the Sudan are affected by FGM.   

Working together with UNFPA, Ahfad University for Women and national counterparts, UNV volunteers mobilized 30 community volunteers in Abu Seid, south of Khartoum, one third of these are men.  They focused on involving men in peer education, key players like Midwife Bahga in sexual education and schools in raising the awareness of schoolchildren.  

The FGM–Free Village Model in Egypt addresses communities as a whole with the aim of creating an environment conducive to dialogue and thus empowering families to abandon FGM.  The initiative began in 2003 in 60 villages and is now expanding to 120 villages.  FGM affects 96% of Egyptian women.  

Working together with UNDP and the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood, UNV volunteers involved the media in this holistic approach.

In one village, Lamon Girgis said, “I’ve always considered this a subject concerning my wife and daughter.  But when we sat down as a family for the first time to discuss it, we became convinced that FGM is prohibited by religion, so we decided to stop.”  Rejection of FGM is increasing:  in Minya the FGM rate dropped from 90% to 30% in two years.  

UNV is funding a project in Mali implemented by the national NGO Sutura to sensitize communities on obstetric fistula, which affects about 2000 women in the Mopti region.  Obstetric fistula develops during obstructed labour.  Its interlinked root causes are poverty, malnutrition, poor health services, early childbearing and FGM.  

In most cases, permanent incontinence ensues; as a result, women are shunned by their communities and abandoned by their husbands. This shocked UNV volunteer Fatou Diop, “Women coming for treatment were accompanied by a brother, but not a husband.  How can it be that the husband, who bears part of the responsibility for the condition, does not feel the responsibility to support his wife in the therapy?”

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)