By Dr Faith Mwangi-Powell, Acting Director, FORWARD
In November 1999, FORWARD participated in an Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) sensitisation workshop organised by the Association of Church Development Projects (ACDEP) in Bawku, Northern Ghana. The purpose of the workshop, which was attended by 50 traditional and religious leaders and about 27 female leaders, was to create dialogue amongst these groups so that they could condemn FGM and allow community interventionists to get involved in campaign activities in this area. After long deliberations the meeting made a public declaration to denounce FGM and vowed to work with the NGOs towards eradicating the practice. A follow up visit was recently carried out by ACDEP to find out how much the chiefs have been able to do in terms of their own commitment made in November 1999.
The first visit was to the Paramount Chief, Naba Abugrago Azoka 11; the chief outlined his progress since November as follows:
He called a meeting of elders to inform them of the declaration to denounce FGM, assigned people to act as monitors of the practice and confirmed that since November 1999 there have been no cases of FGM reported in his area. He also gave his assurance that he would continue to speak out against FGM and share his initiatives at the Regional House of Chiefs so that the eradication effort would be embraced by the whole of the upper east region of Ghana.
In his own words, the chief said: “even if it is early to speak about complete eradication, I am convinced that the problem is under control at the moment”.
This case is just one of many. It is very encouraging to see that the chiefs have followed through their commitments. We can clearly see that the involvement of the elders is proving successful. It is, however, vital to realise that for this work to continue these people will need our support. In view of this, FORWARD has made a commitment to work with ACDEP in Northern Ghana to see the complete eradication of FGM. In August, FORWARD will be facilitating a three-day training workshop for community workers so as to empower and to share good practice models for eliminating FGM. If funds become available we will also implement a long-term project to work with the traditional chiefs to continue this effort to eradicate FGM.