Twenty-five local traditional zoes who participated in a day-long awareness session on ending female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia have highlighted the importance of involving local traditional authorities as the main drivers of efforts to end FGM.
The zoes spoke Tuesday December 4, 2018 in Gbarnga, Bong County during a day-long awareness session on FGM organized by the NGO Women Solidarity Incorporated (WOSI) and funded by the European Union as part of its support toward the observance of the ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.’
Also speaking, Mr. William Kollie, Head of the Traditional Council of Bong County said he embraces efforts to end the practice of FGM but called for more awareness because according to him, it is important for people to understand the reasons why this practice is harmful and should be eradicated. ”Practitioners are ready to listen but there’s need to engage traditional leaders at the community level,” he said.
The session focused on enhancing the understanding of the zoes on the human rights and health implications of the practice of FGM and how to strengthen the involvement of traditional authorities in the campaign to end gender-based violence and to encourage voluntary abandonment of the practice of FGM. Facilitators of the session used the opportunity to remind the participants that the practice of FGM is a grave violation of the fundamental human rights of women and girls, which often lead to deep and life-long medical and psychological effects on its victims. It was also emphasized that efforts to end the practice of FGM are not intended to undermine the culture of Liberia but to create a safe environment for all which ensures respect for human dignity.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Juan Antonio Frutos, Chargé d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to Liberia said the issue of ending violence against women and girls is a major priority of the European Union. ”Violence against women and girls is a very serious and devastating human rights violation. Abuses against women and girls, including harmful traditional practices, like female genital mutilation, deny women and girls their human rights and their human dignity.”
He said the perception that violence towards women and girls is normal and acceptable is wrong and must change. ”We all have the responsibility to say no, openly reject acts of violence, and stand by the women and girls who have been subjected to it,” he emphasized.
Juan Antonio said over the last two years, the EU supported more than 1.5 million girls and women around the world with services for protection and care related to female genital mutilation.
As a Statement by the European Commission and High Representative on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women highlighted, “3,000 communities, representing 8.5 million people (worldwide), have publicly announced that they are abandoning this practice (FGM)”.
The event brought together participants from the National Traditional Council of Liberia – the body that oversees all traditional and culture affairs in Liberia, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Justice and Health, Bong county local authorities, and several civil society organizations.
In partnership with the United Nations, the European Union has launched the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, as well as protecting and giving voice to those women and girls who have been silenced by their societies and now want to speak up.-Press release