Mauritania

Mauritania's observes Day of Zero Tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation

UNICEF Image
© National Forum for Child and Women's Right Promotion/2008
Representatives of non-governmental organizations working to eliminate FGM/C in Mauritania gather for a national forum.

By Brahim Ould Isselmou

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, 14 February 2008 – Hadia was a happy and healthy six-year-old girl living in a suburb of Nouakchott when her aunt Fatima came to visit. Fatima, who preached chastity and respect for traditions, did not need to fight hard to convince Hadia’s mother to engage in female genital cutting of her daughter.*

“Let’s help her grow beautiful and pure,” Fatima reasoned. 

The two women acted quickly and at night, so as not to raise any suspicion. Hadia woke up during the ceremony, shocked, bleeding and crying. The child began to bleed profusely and the women took her to the emergency room, where doctors worked for 72 hours to save her life.

National strategy and action plan

An estimated 65 per cent of Mauritanian girls have suffered through female genital mutilation, or cutting (FGM/C), and its dramatic consequences. But the days when merely speaking out about FGM/C was tantamount to heresy are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

On 6 February, Mauritania commemorated the International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM/C. The day marked the launch of a national strategy and action plan to abandon FGM/C.

UNICEF Image
© National Forum for Child and Women's Right Promotion/2008
The President of the Imams and Religious Leaders Network for Child Rights, Hademine Ould Saleck, during a ceremony marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM/C.

Working tirelessly

During the commemoration ceremony for the International Day of Zero Tolerance, the President of the Imams and Religious Leaders Network for Child Rights, Hademine Ould Saleck, called for “the preservation of physical and psychological integrity of all human beings.”

In partnership with the Mauritanian Government, local non-governmental organizations and civil society, UNICEF has worked for measures to prevent abuse, neglect, violence and discrimination, while creating a protective environment for children. The International Day of Zero Tolerance should provide momentum to scale up existing programmes.
 
“The unprecedented mobilization of all actors at a national and regional level underlines the strong commitment to eliminate, forever, feminine genital mutilation in Mauritania – a practice which severely undermines the rights of girls and women,” UNICEF Representative in Mauritania Christian Skoog said at the ceremony.

Calling on the authorities

The Association Mauritanienne pour la Santé de la Mère et de l'Enfant, an NGO and UNICEF partner, works to prevent violence and sexual abuse. The group took young Hadia’s case to the authorities. The family was indicted according to the national child code, which penalizes violence and abuse against children.

Hadia will bear scars from the experience of FGM/C for the rest of her life, but the hope is that thousands of innocent girls like her will escape such fate and thrive in an environment free from violence.

* The names of the family members in this story have been changed.


 

 

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