MIDRAND, October 13 – Research done by Sonke Gender Justice, a Johannesburg-based NGO, in addition to international research, has confirmed that working with men and boys to promote gender equality and challenge discrimination has a positive impact on the health of women and girls.
“It is believed that men do not have any responsibility and women are the decision makers for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), yet the reality on the ground traduces a major role of men being involved either directly or indirectly,” Mpiwa Mangneiro, Regional Campaigns and Advocacy Specialist for Sonke Gender Justice, told the African News Agency (ANA) on Friday.
Mangneiro was talking on the sidelines of the 10th Annual Conference on Women’s Rights at the fifth session of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), being held at the Gallagher Conference Centre in Midrand.
The objective of Friday morning’s session, moderated by Gloriose Nimeny, the Deputy Chairperson of the PAP Women’s Caucus, was to help attendees understand the role of men and boys in eliminating FGM.
Speakers, including Mabel Sengendo and Itumeleng Komanyane from Sonke Gender Justice, explained how during fragile and crisis situations, violence against women, including FGM, are likely to escalate due the breakdown of social and protection mechanisms.
More than 200 million girls and women have been mutilated and if trends continue an estimated 86 million young girls worldwide are likely to experience some form of the practice by 2030 with 28 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia all affected.
While 23 countries in Africa have adopted national laws penalising FGM, law enforcement remains the challenge.
Since 2008, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), in partnership with the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) has been at the forefront of accelerating the abandonment of FGM in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria and Somalia.
Strategies include PAP increasing awareness of men in various countries on the issues of FGM, gender inequalities and the empowerment of women.
Justine Coulson, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa said that there has been significant success already in fighting FGM thanks to the involvement of PAP parliamentarians.
But she urged them to take even further action to protect the future of millions of African women who still face FGM and the painful consequences of the practice.
The role of parliamentarians in promoting international and regional human rights relating to women and youth, peace and security and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is being discussed at the Pan Africa Parliament’s (PAP) fifth session.
The deliberations at the 10th Annual Conference on Women’s Rights at the Gallagher Conference Centre in Midrand on Thursday aim to strengthen the knowledge of members of the PAP Women’s Caucus on international and regional human rights instruments to support domestication at the national level.
At the regional level in Africa, instruments such as the African Charter on Human and People Rights (1981), its Protocol related Right of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol 2003), and the Maputo Plan of Action 2016 all contribute to African government’s engagement in promoting human rights and gender equality, according to the PAP and the United Nations Population Fund.
The African Union (AU), AU Organs especially the PAP, member states and regional economic communities have been in the frontline of championing women’s rights through the ratification of the Maputo Protocol by 38 AU member states, conference organisers concurred.
These efforts have been complemented by the adoption of regional protocols on women such as the women protocol adopted by the Southern African Development Community protocol.
However, the implementation of these commitments remained a challenge due to poor domestication, lack of resources or issues related to peace and security further impacting the negative effect on women and girls.
But how do African women themselves feel about the situation on the ground and all the legalistic jargon.
“Women’s equality is fundamental to the development of Africa as well as the well being of women and girls,” said Zimbabwean Mpiwa Mangneiro, Regional Campaigns and Advocacy Specialist for Sonke Gender Justice, a Johannesburg-based NGO.
“But these issues of equality and FGM are also important for men and boys. Without a resolution to these issues they will also pay the price of an Africa not developed to its full potential because studies have shown that gender discrimination impacts the successful development of a country,” Mangneiro told the African News Agency (ANA).
Cameroonian Dominique Mpouel, a Resource Mobilisation Officer at the PAP concurred saying it was pointless talking about progress while women faced discrimination.
“Equality should be addressed as a priority. However, on a deeper level women will always have to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same recognition,” said Mpouel.