Men join campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation
The Mean Speak Out Awareness Campaign was launched on February 5th
GAMS Belgium, FORWARD UK, HIMILO foundation in Netherlands and the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp have launched the first European Awareness Campaign to engage men in the prevention of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Europe. The MEN SPEAK OUT Project is co-funded by the European Commission Daphne Programme.
Today, FGM is seen as a “women’s affair”. Men hardly interfere on the issue and their views on the practice are often unclear. However, since FGM involves all members of the community, men can, and should, play an important role in ending FGM.
Forty-five peer educators have been trained since September 2015 in Belgium, United Kingdom and the Netherlands, using a human rights and gender approach specifically targeting men. One of their roles is to reach the migrant population in Europe and start a dialogue around FGM within their community, to engage men in the fight against these malpractices. “Increasing the dialogue between men and women is the first step towards stopping the practice” says Fabienne Richard, Executive Director of GAMS Belgique and coordinator of the project. “One of our peer educators told us that the training helped him to find the words and the courage to talk to his wife, to say that he didn’t want their daughter to be cut. It was the first time he had spoken about FGM with his wife”.
To support this campaign, a series of posters and video clips have been developed within the project and are available to the public for wide dissemination HERE.
Sulieman Hashi is Somali and lives in London. He is one of the 45 men who have been trained; he accepted to appear in the video and the poster. He knows that some people from his community will reject him or criticise him, but his motivation and conviction to stop the practice is huge and cannot be stopped. “I realised the trauma and the pain of the women during my honeymoon when I discovered what they have done to my wife. FGM destroyed our couple. Since then I decided to fight against the practice,” said Sulieman.
Within the scope of this project, quantitative and qualitative research is conducted in the three countries to increase knowledge on the role of men in the perpetuation of FGM.
Results will be released at the end of 2016. It will be the first comparative report across the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands of male perceptions on FGM.
Men’s involvement in combatting FGM is crucial and can accelerate the abandonment of the practice in Europe, and by extension in the countries of origin. All the peer educators expressed their will to share what they had learned in Europe with the community in their country of origin, and to be agents of change.
Marie Arena, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality supports this idea of building bridges between Europe and Africa to prevent female genital mutilation. “European programmes should be set up to involve the Diaspora more actively in projects on abandoning FGM in their home countries, to increase their impact”, Arena said.
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Pictures of the launch
About the Men Speak Out Project Partners
GAMS Belgium, is the oldest and largest organisation in the field of FGM prevention in Belgium with country wide programmes including in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. GAMS Belgium has staff with range of competencies: midwifery, clinical psychologist, anthropologist, and community educators. GAMS Belgium is recognised by the government bodies (cabinets and administrations) and was involved in the introduction of FGM in the Violence Against Women National Action Plan. GAMS Belgium coordinates “Strategies concertées de lutte contre les MGF”, a multidisciplinary network of professionals and members of the communities to improve coordination of actions and ensure efficiency and quality of work.
FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development) is committed to gender equality and safeguarding the rights of African girls and women. They are a leading African diaspora women’s campaign and support organisation working through partnerships in the UK, Europe and Africa to transform lives, tackling human rights violations that affect the dignity and wellbeing of girls and women. FORWARD focuses on female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and obstetric fistula.
HIMILO Foundation in Netherlands was established in 2006 and is member of FSAN (Federation of Somali Association). The organisation supports the Somali community with community development programs and capacity building activities. HIMILO has also very good contacts with Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia communities. Several of their members have been trained by FSAN and Pharos as key figures in the fight against FGM.
The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp (ITM) is a renowned centre of excellence for research, training, and services in tropical medicine. The ITM has coordinated two FGM prevalence studies in Belgium in 2010 and 2014. Since 2001 a module on FGM prevention and care is part of the Master of Public Health programme and the Post-Graduate courses. ITM’s Department of Public Health has a team of social scientists with an excellent track record investigating in fields of medical research where human behaviour is poorly understood.