|© UNICEF Guinea/2009/ Baro|
|Guinea observed ‘Zero Tolerance Day’ against female genital mutilation/cutting at the ‘Palace of the People’ in the capital, Conakry.|
By Fatoumata Thiam Diallo
CONAKRY, Guinea, 23 February 2009 – Women in Guinea took an important step forward recently as the country observed ‘Zero Tolerance Day’ against female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) at Guinea’s ‘Palace of the People’ in the capital, Conakry.
In attendance at the event were Prime Minister M. Kabinet Komara as well as President Moussa Dadis Camara’s Chief of Cabinet, Secretary and several advisors. Members of the diplomatic corps, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Mbaranga Gasarabwe and representatives from non-governmental organizations and other agencies were also there.
Opening remarks by government officials included a quoted appeal from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UNICEF Representative in Guinea Dr. Mohamed Cisse spoke as well.
A message from Guinea’s Youth Parliament was given by its President, Aissata Camara. In her message, she begged the Prime Minister to take concrete actions to help save young girls from being harmed. And the event featured a moving dramatic play portraying the dangers of FGM/C.
Raising awareness of FGM/C
The occasion was meant to raise awareness about FGM/C and make people think about their own situation, as well as that of their mothers, sisters and daughters.
"My first experience with violence towards women was at eight years old. My grandmother took me to the bush. They put me on the ground, opened my legs and cut something from me. It hurt so much, I cried my head off for days while others where celebrating my initiation to womanhood," said Diarryatou Bah, who was married at the age of 14.
According to a 2005 national survey on demographics and health, approximately 96 per cent of women and girls in Guinea have undergone the practice of FGM/C.
More to be done
Although there is a high level of political engagement and many non-governmental organizations are working with UN agencies to help reduce the practice, there is still much more work to be done.
In 2008, a joint UNICEF/UNFPA programme started FGM/C awareness activities that will last for five years. The first year focused on community-based activities, capacity-building of the media, advocacy and human rights awareness.
Those in attendance at the ‘Zero Tolerance Day’ event noted that a change of mentality among journalists and traditional communicators is needed, since their role is to educate and inform the public. The fight against FGM/C has to be collective, based on the voluntary mobilization of communities, the speakers pointed out.
As a proof of government’s engagement, the Prime Minister took with him a document on forbidding FGM/C in the country. The document will be signed by the President and instructions will be issued urging respect for a law that was already ratified, but never applied.