Ouagadougou – The Parliament of Burkina Faso is seeking concrete ways to take action against female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) that is still widely practice throughout the country. Since 1996, FGM/C is banned by the country’s criminal legislation and efforts are being made to adequately inform and sensitise the people of Burkina Faso on the harmful consequences of this practice on women’s life and health. The country’s engagement against the practice has been voiced at the highest political level and Burkina Faso has recently called for the adoption of a United Nations resolution banning FGM/C worldwide and has launched a global campaign towards this objective. Nationally, several initiatives have been undertaken, such as the creation of a National Council to fight the practice of FGM/C, responsible for the coordination of all sensitisation activities on the ground, and the creation of an FGM/C “alert line”, however it is estimated that over three quarters of women between 15 and 49 are still mutilated.
The Parliament of Burkina Faso is committed to step-up its action towards the complete abandonment of the practice. During a two-day workshop organised by the National Assembly, in cooperation with the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA), over forty Members of Parliaments (MPs), representatives of the government and local NGOs exchanged ideas on how best to undertake and coordinate action towards the abandonment of the practice. In particular, the debate aimed at identifying concrete parliamentary actions to contrast the practice. Parliamentarians “can provide an impulse to this fight at the national and regional level”, said Ms. Chantal Compaoré, First Lady of Burkina Faso and Goodwill Ambassador of the Campaign for the Worldwide Ban of FGM/C, in the opening session, while exhorting elected officials “to take on this issue as part of their work and put in place concrete actions oriented at their electoral base”.
The workshop resulted in the adoption of proposed “Key Parliamentary Actions” for MPs to undertake in order to favour the abandonment of FGM/S in Burkina Faso. Priority measures and concrete actions were identified, including sensitisation activities involving MPs and innovative communications strategies on the ground. MPs also committed to take concrete steps to oversee and strengthen the implementation of the legal provisions banning the practice, strive to mobilise additional resources for these actions and engage in regional and international cooperation to favour FGM abandonment. In the discussions, particular attention was put on ways to contrast mutilations practiced across borders, in countries like Mali, where legislation to ban the practice has yet to be adopted. Other important areas of action were identified as the need for the increased capacity development in this area of actors, such as health professionals, teachers in schools and legal practitioners, as well as the need to raise additional resources to collect data on FGM prevalence across the country and the monitoring and evaluation of current programmes and initiatives. For the proposed “Key Parliamentary Actions”, click here.
Ms. Magda de Meyer, Vice-President of the AWEPA Belgian Section and former member of the Belgian House of Representatives, who was present at the workshop, stated that FGM/C was no longer just an African problem, but also a European one within migrant communities in which up to 500.000 girls and women suffer today the consequences of the practice. “African and European MPs should work together to find ways to step-up action against this practice”, stated Ms. de Meyer. In support of the actions taken by African MPs, a series of initiatives that can be undertaken by their European peers were also identified, such as for instance influencing development cooperation strategies, participating in sensitisation activities in Europe and Africa and requesting the mobilisation of additional resources aimed at favouring FGM/C abandonment.
Following the national workshop, MPs travelled to the province of Yatenga, in the North of Burkina Faso just 58 km from the Malian border, where despite on-going sensitisation initiatives, prevalence rates remain high. MPs exchanged ideas on the practice, its effects and the need for concrete actions against it with local leaders and representatives from the Muslim, Catholic and Protestant communities. The activity on the ground also included broad interaction with the members of Appui moral, matériel et intellectuel à l’enfant (AMMIE), a network NGO working on the ground and bringing together women’s groups, community based organisations, and focused on the role of parliamentarians in supporting their sensitisation work and coordination of activities among different players. A visit to the local village of Filli, in the municipality of Ouahigouya, was also paid, in which MPs met village leaders and the local communities and exchanged ideas on the practice and its abandonment.
Burkina Faso is one of the countries in Africa that is pioneering the action against FGM/C, but the practice remains widespread and parliamentarians, as influential leaders and champions of change, have a key role to play towards the abandonment of the practice. The concrete actions identified in the context of the workshop and information collected in the course of the decentralised activity can help MPs in Burkina Faso step-up their action towards this objective. AWEPA and its member-base of Europeans parliamentarians that face the growing consequences of the practice in migrant communities in their own countries stand ready to support African parliamentarians in their sensitisation efforts.
AWEPA’s current programme to support parliamentarians in favouring the abandonment of FGM/C is funded by the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and implemented in cooperation with UNFPA and UNICEF, in the context of their Joint Programme to “accelerate change” towards FGM abandonment. For more information on AWEPA’s programme on FGM/C, click here.
Workshop Programme (FR)