At a glance: Niger

Ten villages unite to say ‘no’ to female genital mutilation/cutting in Niger

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© UNICEF Niger/2009/ Bisin
Communities publicly vow to end female genital mutilation/cutting in Kiki village, western Niger.

NIAMEY, Niger, 14 April 2009 – Ten villages in western Niger have decided to put an end to female genital mutilation or cutting (also known as FGM/C), publicly calling all inhabitants in the Tillabery region to give up this practice, which threatens girls’ lives.

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“We have decided to definitively put an end to female genital mutilation in our villages and to continue sensitizing neighbouring villages so they also give up the practice,” declared M. Babobou Pana, leader of one of the villages.

“UNICEF is extremely pleased with this public declaration to end female genital mutilation in this part of Niger, as it is seen by Nigerien authorities as a severe violation of the rights of women and young girls,” said UNICEF Representative in Niger Akhil Iyer. “Genital mutilation has a negative impact on their reproductive health and their ability to go to school. This public declaration is an act of courage and an important step forward for the country.”

Geographic and ethnic disparities

In Niger, the rate of FGM/C decreased by more than half between 1998 and 2006, from 5.8 per cent to 2 per cent, according to a government survey released last year. These statistics, however, conceal great geographic and ethnic disparities.

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© UNICEF Niger/2009/Bisin
Celebrating the end of FGM/C in the village of Kiki.

The regions of Tillabery, Diffa and Niamey have the highest FGM/C rates. About 66 per cent of women living in the western part of the country, close to the border with Mali, have endured the practice.

Forced genital mutilation or cutting, commonly performed without anesthesia, is extremely painful and traumatizing for a young girl. It can result in prolonged bleeding, a higher risk of HIV infection, infertility and even death. A girl or woman who has been cut is at greater risk when she gives birth. These complications can increase the chances of death or disability for both mother and child.

In Niger, 650 women out of 100,000 die each year from problems related to pregnancy or childbirth – on average, that’s one woman dying every two hours.

‘It is very bad’

Mariama Lompo lives in Kiki, one of the villages participating to the public declaration against FGM/C. She is proud that she has decided against genital mutilation for her daughter.

“I do not want my daughter to undergo genital cutting because it is very bad. It can bring misfortune in the family and problems during childbirth,” she says.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Niger/2009/ Bisin
Traditional practitioner Kompoa Tamkpa now acknowledges that FGM/C presents a threat to young girls’ and women’s health, and has decided to give up the practice.

Kompoa Tamkpa, a former traditional practitioner, today acknowledges that FGM/C presents a health threat to young girls and women. As a result, she has decided to give up the practice.

“I have given up the bad work because it does not bring anything to our village,” she says. “We thought it was good for women, that it was going to bring them success. But we found out that it does not bring anything.”

A breakthrough for Niger

Since 1992, UNICEF and the government have worked with Niger’s Committee on Traditional Practices (CONIPRAT), a non-governmental organization, to protect the health and integrity of women and girls. In 2003, Niger passed breakthrough legislation on these practices, therefore contributing to improvements in maternal and child health indicators.

In 2007, CONIPRAT and its partners established a positive social-change strategy in the 10 villages of the Tillabery region: Over the course of 18 months, the members of these communities, comprising close to 13,000 people, developed new knowledge about the negative impact of certain behaviours and the need to change them.

This approach, which promotes dialogue between women and men – and between generations – will be replicated in 10 other villages in Niger this year.


 

 

Video

7 April 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a decision by 10 villages in western Niger to end the practice of female genital mutilation.
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