Fatouma: fighting against FGM/C

#foreverychild, protection

More than 200 women are gathered at the headquarters of the Union of Djiboutian Women (Union des Femmes Djiboutiennes — UNFD) as part of an intercommunity meeting of community management committee to address issues related to the rights of women and children.

The women discuss several themes by sharing information and experiences from different communities, including on female genital mutilation. Messages are also conveyed through a number of testimonies and artistic performances, including a role-play depicting the story of a family whose life changed through the community-based programme to promote human rights and community empowerment.

One of the actors in the role-play highlights her newly- acquired awareness of the need to protect girls from female circumcision, of child health, the importance of birth registration, education, and literacy of the parents, and her responsibility as a parent and community member to promote children’s rights. The mother also succeeded in persuading her husband to get involved and actively participate in the community management committee activities.

Thanks to this committee, she has acquired knowledge that she has translated into action, in particular the abandonment of FGM, the registration of her daughter in school, obtaining birth certi cates for her children. Also, she is now able to read her child’s report card, her husband’s pay slip and the prescribed medication.

Once communities are empowered, they organize social mobilization, disseminate information to their families and neighbours and make collective decision on how to promote positive social norms.

Converting FGM practitioners

Fatouma is one of the most active women in the fight against female genital mutilation in her community in Balbala 12. She has been the coordinator of the local community management committee for many years in one of the most populous neighbourhoods in Djibouti.

Fatouma tells us that her daughter had to leave school due to complications after being cut. “My daughter had to be hospitalized due to a serious infection and could not go to school for two months. She could not explain the reasons for her long absence, she was ashamed, and that’s why she had to leave school,“ says Fatouma.

In the past, Fatouma also practised female circumcision on girls, but since she was sensitized and received information about the life-long negative e ects of the practice she stopped, and got involved in the ght against FGM which still a ects nearly 38% of girls under 9 in Djibouti.

“My son had a daughter”, Fatouma says, “he wanted her to be cut, but I was against it and I explained to him why he shouldn’t and he ended up following my advice”.

Although the practice is decreasing thanks to Djibouti’s commitment to fight against all forms of violence against children, including FGM, the road towards a generation without FGM remains long because it is related to deep-rooted behaviours and beliefs within society.

Monitoring and raising awareness

The Community Management Committees of Djibouti, under the aegis of the UNFD and with the support of UNICEF, work with the communities on a daily basis, particularly the most vulnerable, to inform them about issues related to the protection of Children and female genital mutilation.

“As soon as we know that a woman is pregnant, we follow her pregnancy on a regular basis and make sure after birth that the girls are not cut”. We were able to save the seven girls who were born since the beginning of the year, explains Fatouma.

Fatouma hopes that in the future that all children will be better protected, go to school and fully enjoy their rights.