As part of the commemoration events to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in partnership with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has today held an engagement event with 50 journalists, civil society actors and citizens of goodwill, to celebrate and jointly reflect on the progress and challenges facing the FGM campaign in the country in a two-day conference.
NUSOJ is proud to be part of the national and international effort to end FGM. This effort builds on the organisation’s ongoing efforts to highlight the importance of ending Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and its campaigns to pass progressive legislation that tackles GBV crimes. As with any social challenge, the only effective and sustainable approach is a collaborative one where different role players can effect change from their particular vantage points.
This year’s theme of “Accelerating Investment to End FGM”, underscores the importance of amplifying and directing local efforts towards eliminating FGM – a process which NUSOJ continues to vigorously support, by bringing together like-minded actors who are committed and passionate about ending GBV, FGM and other ills facing the Somali society.
NUSOJ has today called on Somalis of goodwill to join in the campaign against FGM, while emphasising that the media professionals have an important and strategic role to play in bringing discussions around FGM out into the open. The union is challenging the media fraternity to do more and sensitize the public on the adverse effects of FGM on women and girls.
“By advocating to end FGM, and by having access to community members, survivors and those intimately involved in the practice, journalists can report on the complexity of the issue with sensitivity and clarity, ensuring diverse voices are heard,” says NUSOJ Secretary General, Omar Faruk Osman at today’s commemorative event in Mogadishu. “Most importantly, the media has the ability to frame FGM within a human rights context and strongly communicate the impact the practice has on the physical and psychology health of survivors”, added Osman.
NUSOJ reiterated its commitment to continue to support efforts to combat GBV and ensure that the media is capacitated and well positioned to play its advocacy role and report on the issue with accuracy and dignity. “So far, NUSOJ has trained and prepared 400 journalists on how to effectively report on FGM and has positioned a number of journalists and editors as FGM champions”, affirmed Osman.
“We will maintain our unwavering support for FGM advocacy and local actions to end FGM which is both a rights violation and a retrogressive cultural practice that continues to perpetuate inequality and GBV in our beloved country,” Osman stressed. “We thank UNFPA for walking this journey with us and for providing the necessary support that has enabled NUSOJ to actively engage journalists and the wider public in tacking FGM in the country”, added Osman.
Nima Hassan Abdi, NUSOJ Organising Secretary said: “As a union that fights for fundamental rights and advocates for social justice, we challenge the authorities to remain focused on eradicating FGM and to avail the space for local communities and civil society actors to pass on clear message that FGM is a violation of human rights. NUSOJ calls on the political actors and policy makers to take legislative action to end FGM.”
“Female genital mutilation harms the lives and futures of young girls and women. It is a violation of rights to bodily integrity and freedom from torture. UNFPA in Somalia is working with CSOs and government partners to mobilize political actors and policy makers to take legislative and policy action to end FGM” said Anders Thomsen, UNFPA’s Country Representative for Somalia.
“Religious leaders, families, communities, women, men, girls and boys are committing through personal pledges, positive role modelling and action to end FGM in Somalia. However, there is a need to sustain and accelerate advocacy and community action so as not to lose the gains made so far. Only united and concerted action can end FGM. On this day February 06, we call on all development actors and lovers of Somalia to join the campaign and make a personal commitment to end FGM in Somalia” declared Thomsen.
Speaking at today's commemorative conference, Jawahir Barqab, Chairwoman of Banadir Region Women Organization, said “Through this engagement platforms, I have come to realise that we need the collective involvement of both men and women, and more so, our colleagues from the media to be able to sustain and amplify the campaign against FGM”.
Indeed, the Provisional Constitution of Somalia states, under Article 15 (4) that “Female circumcision is a cruel and degrading customary practice, and is tantamount to torture. The circumcision of girls is prohibited”. Furthermore, the National Development Plan (NDP-9) 20220-2024, notes that “high rates of FGM are also contributing to women’s poor health outcomes, a fact recognized by the pending anti-FGM legislation and by the ratification of the Somali Women’s Charter”.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women. It comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
FGM causes short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences for their sexual and reproductive health and mental health. However, in spite of the prohibition of FGM under the Somali Constitution, close to 90% of women and girls aged 15 years and above have undergone some form of FGM.