The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC) with its National Committees in 28 African countries and the Group Sections, in 16 countries outside of Africa, observes February 6, 2008 as the 5th anniversary of the International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Partnering with the media to reach Zero Tolerance to FGM.”
By “Zero Tolerance to FGM”, IAC means that FGM should not be tolerated for any reason, at any time, place or on anybody. FGM has been recognized as violence against women and girls and coupled with other medical, social, psycho-sexual and economic consequences, the practice should not be allowed to continue under the guise of tradition or religion.
February 6 was adopted as a day to draw attention worldwide to the menace of FGM during the International conference on Zero Tolerance to FGM organized by IAC and held at the ECA, Addis Ababa, from February 4 to 6, 2003. The conference that drew over 400 participants worldwide was unanimous in adopting the day. Since that time several other bodies and organizations have recognized February 6 as World FGM Day.
The United Nations Sub-committee on Human Rights not only recognized February 6 but has also been marking the day in Geneva in collaboration with IAC Geneva office under the leadership of Mrs. Berhane Ras-Work, the IAC Executive Director. Also celebrating February 6, 2008, is the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva. It would hold a panel discussion and Press Conference on “How to end the practice of FGM”.
IAC and its partners the UN, Governments, International and local NGOs among others, agreed to commemorate February 6 as a day to strategize, reflect, deliberate on FGM and to re-new commitment to end this human rights violation in the name of tradition. All actions towards ending FGM is in accordance with Article 5 (Elimination of Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 120 million African women and girls have been subjected to FGM. African immigrants have taken the practice to Europe, America and Asia thus making FGM a global concern. It is the goal of IAC and other stakeholders that the millions of at-risk cases to FGM every year are prevented and that the traditional practice would be eliminated by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals:
(3) Promote Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment,
(4) Reduce child mortality
(5) Improve maternal health
The Inter-African Committee believes that to eliminate FGM, there must be a multidimensional approach that involves all stakeholders. IAC at the 2003 International conference on Zero Tolerance to FGM presented a Common Agenda for Action for the elimination of FGM which was adopted by the conference as a tool for harnessing energy to achieve Zero FGM world wide.
IAC partners with the media because the media reaches a wider segment of the population with powerful and lasting messages. Therefore their involvement in the campaign would likely accelerate reaching the goal of eliminating FGM.
From 1993 to date, IAC has been working closely with the media by organizing media workshops, conferences, press briefings and through direct involvement of media professionals in program planning and implementation in the different countries where IAC has National Committees.
Engaging the media in the campaign against FGM has resulted in some successes top of which is breaking the taboo on FGM and making it a public discourse.
The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices is an international non-governmental network organization founded in Dakar, Senegal in 1984. The vision of IAC is to see “A society in which African women and children fully enjoy their human right to live free from harmful traditional practices”.
IAC has its headquarters at the UN premises in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a liaison office in Geneva, Switzerland.