Subject matter expert at CoP discussion ‘Law and FGM’

August 6, 2019

In July 2019, I was invited by Gams Belgique to be a subject matter expert at the Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation (CoP FGM) discussion on the theme ‘Law and FGM’.

What is Community of Practice? 

The CoP FGM was created in 2016 and it contains a network bringing together professionals from Africa and Europe to improve the quality of prevention and support for women and girls affected by FGM in the world. The CoP FGM enables members to exchange within the frame of mutual learning, of strengthening links and exchange of good practice. The CoP FGM is funded by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme and coordinated by the Italian NGO AIDOS in partnership with the Belgian NGO GAMS Belgium. The CoP FGM is part of the project ‘Building bridges between Africa and Europe to end FGM’. It aims to increase the effectiveness of actions against FGM, and to improve the living conditions of women and girls affected by FGM, in particular by creating bridges between different actors: CSOs, professionals from various sectors (medical, psychosocial, media, etc.) and the communities directly affected by FGM (in Africa and in the diaspora). More information can be found (both in French and English) on their website.

Thematic discussions 

In order to promote the sharing of knowledge and good practices, the CoP FGM launches every month discussions on specific themes. Before the discussion starts, an information note providing information on the chosen topic, resources and questions for the debate are shared with the members of the CoP and published on the CoP blog in order to make this information widely accessible. You can find the information note on the ‘Law and FGM’ discussion by clicking on the document below.
For this discussion, three subject matter experts were invited, including Fatou Janssen (human rights lawyer working on women’s rights issues in Africa), Brenda Dora (human rights lawyer with expertise in women and children’s rights) and myself. Our role was to actively support the debate, to respond to member’s questions and to contribute to the sharing of knowledge by providing expertise on the topic.

The members of the community were also invited to share their experiences with the CoP in relation to the following questions:

  • What has been the effect of an anti-FGM law in your country?
  • Has it been beneficial? Has the law had any negative or undesirable effects?
  • What have been the difficulties in implementing laws?
  • Do you think countries should have specific anti-FGM laws or integrate FGM under other laws (child abuse, violence against women…)
  • How do we avoid stigmatization of families and communities (living in high prevalence or low prevalence settings)?
  • How should countries best deal with the issue of consent – should FGM be illegal independently if it is practiced on a girl or on a consenting woman?

The discussion started the 12th of July and was closed on the 3rd of August. I really enjoyed being part of the discussion and to share my experiences. It was a real joy to open my e-mailbox every day, because each day the discussion continued. I was happy to see that it was a very rich and englighting debate: over 30 contributions by around 15 members were made on the group during the 3 weeks, in total over 25 pages of contributions! Experiences were shared from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Senegal, Iraqi Kurdistan, Belgium, The Gambia, Guinea…

The moderators of the debate shared a summary of the discussions afterwards and a summary has been published on the blog. I think this is great, because it preserves and highlights the collective knowledge produced. The next thematic discussion will be around FGM Type IV and other alterations to the female genitalia: another very interesting topic!

I would like to thank Gams Belgique to give me the opportunity to be part of the CoP community and to share my thoughts and experiences. I really enjoyed it!