The Girl Summit- A Pivotal Moment
On July 22, activists, community leaders, civil society organizations (CSOs), governments, and international organizations all converge on London for Girl Summit 2014. To discuss how to end two of the most pressing human rights violations of our time: child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) and female genital mutilation (FGM).
After months of planning, endless discussions, workshops and meetings with DFID Senior Managers like Jane Miller and Jane Hobson. The day finally came for the world to say no to FGM and child marriage.
Opening the Girl Summit at the Walworth Academy with my speech, I knew then as a FGM survivor and campaigner, we have reached a pivotal moment. A milestone that will transform the lives of girls around the world expose to the dangers of female genital mutilation and child early force marriage.
Hearing my fellow speaker, Farwa, a member of the #YouthforChange Youth Panel and Hannah speak at Girl Summit I knew that the voices of the young people at the Summit would bring lasting change to the lives of millions of girls at risk of FGM and CEFM. Thanks to the excellent work by DFID (Lyndsay and colleagues) who worked for months to get the young people from around the work to look to ways to get firm commitments from the delegates. #GirlEffect
Highlights of the Girl Summit
Powerful speeches delivered. Great music and dancing. There were round tables and spotlight sessions. For me the highlight of the Summit was hearing the powerful voices of the brave young people, like Hannah, June, Alfred and Alice and many more who were the catalyst for change.
Demanding an end to the abhorrent practices of FGM and CEFM.
The Girl Summit was the start of something big for FGM victims and survivors as well as those seasoned campaigners around the world who have fought tirelessly to end the practise of female genital mutilation. Campaigners like Efua Dorkenoo OBE of Equality Now, Dr Comfort Momoh OBE, Jane Ellison M.P., Lynn Featherstone, Marina Yannikaides and First Lady of Bukina Faso, Madam Chantal Campoare whose pioneering work on FGM has contributed to the international recognition of FGM as a public health and a human rights issues.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
According to a recent UNICEF publication at least 125 million girls and women have experienced FGM/C in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. Given present trends, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk. However, the data shows that FGM/C is becoming less prevalent overall and the younger generation is less vulnerable to the practice. According to UNICEF estimates, on average, 36 per cent of girls aged 15-19 have been cut compared to an estimated 53 per cent of women aged 45-49 (UNICEF ChildInfo).
Prime Minister David Cameron announced that here in the United Kingdom, 130,000 people affected by FGM. 60,000 girls under the age of 15 potentially at risk.
Pledges and Commitments
At the Girl Summit, UK government secured substantial commitments from heads of state, foundations, and international organizations from around the world. Offer pledging much-needed financial and technical resources to the effort, as well as pledges from governments and civil society to work together in more strategic ways, including by working with girls themselves to ensure that all girls everywhere can live healthy and empowered lives. You can follow the Summit commitments online at: www.girlsummit2014.org.
I wholeheartedly welcome the landmark pledges made by Liberia’s Gender Minister Julia Duncan-Cassell and Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Ghana at Girl Summit 2014. Both announcing that their respective countries will ban female genital mutilation (FGM). This represents the first time that Liberia had agreed to include the elimination of FGM on its agenda. Its adoption represents the culmination of years of work.
While there is almost universal condemnation of FGM practices in national and global discussions, not enough was said on what will be done to actually stop countries where FGM is still rive and girls are still dying from the practice. The Girl Summit was a chance to change the status quo and turn rhetoric into action. We already know what works to prevent and mitigate the harmful effects of these practices; what we need now is the political will and financial commitment to scale up effective programs.
What was also missing was how the powerful voices of the survivors be utilized to change mind-sets. The sweep of change happening around FGM in the UK has been strongly attributed to the efforts of Survivors.
In order to tackle FGM, the voices of the survivors, grassroots campaigners who live within the affected communities is vital. They are familiar with the complex issues associated with the practice in their communities. If we are to end FGM in this generation, there must be a collective action plan on FGM, which will bring together key components such as survivors, campaigners, diaspora communities, grassroots organizations and individuals who will galvanize and lead changes within their communities.