Afrika Dag is the biggest event in the Netherlands that focuses on important issues of Africa and international cooperation and is annually coordinated by the Evert Vermeer Foundation. This year 2000 participants attended Afrika Dag and enhanced their knowledge with speeches and workshops accompanied by African music and food. The day was opened by the Minister for Development Cooperation. During this day AWEPA, in cooperation with Miss Africa Netherlands and the National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO), organised a workshop on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM) to offer information to the audience about this act of violation of women’s and girls’ rights.
Hon. Désirée Bonis, Member of the Dutch Parliament (PvdA, Labour Party) facilitated the workshop and mentioned that the Dutch government is also including this issue as one of its priorities under “sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
Miss Africa Netherlands 2012 Anthonia Emegha has taken on the issue of FGM as one of her campaigning objectives and is advocating breaking the taboo around the subject matter. “It is a tradition that people just don’t want to let go of. My own mother had to work hard to say no” she said.
The situation in the Netherlands concerning information and legislation on FGM was presented by National Ambassador against FGM, Ms. Zahra Naleie of the Federation of Somali Association in the Netherlands (FSAN). In the Netherlands, female circumcision is punishable under the child protection laws as a form of child abuse with a maximum prison sentence of 12 years. Ms. Naleie asked attention to the 2011 Statement Opposing Female Circumcision which is signed among others by the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Minister of Security and Justice. In 2013 the Ministry of Health will start a new campaign on FGM.
AWEPA is emphasizing the important role of parliamentarians, because they can help speed up the change in a more structural way. Dr. Jeff Balch, AWEPA Director Research and Evaluation, noted that FGM/C is mainly practiced in Africa, but also within diaspora communities in Europe, and we need to deal with this together. “We will never get rid of FGM in Europe if it doesn’t stop in Africa first”, he said. Passing laws to prohibit FGM is very important, but does not stop the practice, he mentioned. The abandonment of FGM is a village-by-village community-led process, and also applies to child marriage and other harmful traditional practices. Ms. Bonis added that you need the whole village to be on board in order to be able to take collective action. In particular border areas are a concern with higher prevalence, Dr. Balch said. For example, AWEPA arranged meetings between MPs in Burkina Faso, where the practice is illegal since 1996, and MPs in neighboring country Mali that still has not adopted a law against FGM.
The presentations were followed by a discussion with questions from the participants and the signing of a Petition to strengthen our shared commitment to abandon FGM in Africa and Europe and to translate this commitment into enhanced action. One of the concrete actions is to call the Members of the Dutch Parliament to honor the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM on 6 February 2013, by organising an event on this day in the Dutch Parliament.
If you want to sign the Petition please send us an email ( email@example.com) with your name and email-address so that we can add you on the list.
To view the petition undersigned on Africa Day click here