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Dia­logue ap­proaches to over­com­ing fe­male gen­ital mu­til­a­tion - a con­tri­bu­tion to fem­in­ist de­vel­op­ment policy

07.10.2022, News :

A high-level event addressed dialogue approaches in development cooperation and discussed their potential for changing social norms and thus overcoming female genital mutilation (FGM).

© UNICEF/Harandar Dicko: Adolescents in a roundtable discussion in Mali to raise awareness against all forms of violence against women, including FGM.  (opens enlarged image)
© UNICEF/Harandar Dicko: Adolescents in a roundtable discussion in Mali to raise awareness against all forms of violence against women, including FGM.  

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) violates the universal human rights of women and girls. The reasons for FGM and other forms of gender-based violence are manifold, but mostly lie in patriarchal power structures, discriminatory and harmful social norms and gender roles. In the context of feminist development policy, transformative approaches are needed to identify harmful social norms and beliefs and overcome FGM.

The importance of dialogical approaches to overcome FGM was discussed together with representatives of UNICEF, UNFPA, Save the Children Canada and World Vision at the invitation of the divisions Gender Equality (412) and Churches, Political Foundations, Social Structure Promotion, Religion and Development (511) of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on Sept. 22, 2022.

In her introductory remarks, Birgit Pickel, Head of the Africa Division at BMZ, emphasized Germany's commitment for more than 20 years to developing and implementing the Generation Dialogue. This promotes dialogue on sensitive and taboo issues such as FGM and sexual and reproductive health and rights and has been adapted to many different countries and contexts. Ms. Pickel also emphasized the importance of religious actors and traditional leaders in overcoming discriminatory structures.  Nankali Maksud, senior advisor by UNICEF to the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, presented to the audience, in addition to global developments and challenges, gender-transformative approaches used by UNICEF to overcome discriminatory power structures. To support these efforts within the framework of a feminist development policy, Birgit Pickel announced financial support for the Joint Programme of UNFPA and UNICEF in the amount of EUR 1.9 million until 2024.

The panel discussion between representatives of UNFPA, Save the Children and World Vision confirmed that while development cooperation needs state and national partners, efforts must not be limited to the national level. Organisations must work with local communities and religious actors and support their priorities to gain ownership and support for addressing the root causes of gender-based violence in projects.

Wis­dom and solu­tions lie in the com­munity.

Amira Hussein, Independent Consultant for UNFPA Egypt

All three dialogic approaches presented benefit from the knowledge of local communities: While World Vision's Channels of Hope approach works with religious actors, Save the Children Canada in Somalia supports dialogue between young siblings and within families to combat FGM. In the Generational Dialogue in Egypt, intergenerational community members talked about harmful norms and traditions to work together on solutions. Listening to community members, learning from them, not judging and lecturing, was highlighted as a key success factor of all dialogic approaches. After all, the desire for change comes from within the communities themselves.

Representatives recommended long-term funding, cross-sectoral approaches and collaboration with religious actors, and evidence generation, particularly in the area of FGM. Around 230 participants from international and national civil society, implementing agencies and international organisations took part in the discussion.

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