19 October 2010

Have history and geography set the scene for the cutting culture?

I recently heard Dr John Azumah speaking on the phases and faces of development across North Africa. I realised how history and geography; economy and policies are so intertwined in this area. This was particularly interesting as I reflected on my recent experience in Nigeria. I learnt some of the reasons for the spread of Shari’a law in the North where I lived as the colonising powers felt Islam was good for these African people, so did not encourage the missionary influence of Christianity as in the South.

I also attended a film premiere in Piccadilly Circus, The Cutting Tradition directed by Nancy Durell McKenna, founder director of Safe Hands. The movie was narrated by Meryl Streep, and around 30 of us watched the movie and then had questions answered by the director. Filmed in Burkino Faso, Egypt and Ethiopia, it shows the different community opinins towards FGM – from the perspectives of groups including circumcisors, Imams, first lady, FOWARD’s CEO etc. It will have an educational use, and be translated in four languages, hopefully helping change opinions towards eradicating FGM.

As a speaker on behalf of Medair, the relief and rehabilitation charity who I worked for in Kosovo, Uganda and North/South Sudan, I shared with 300 wannabe development workers at a careers evening hosted by LSE by Positive Change. North Sudan, where I worked in West Darfur in 2005, made a big impact on me. It was where I first saw the impact of FGM – on the life of a 10 year old who had been raped years after having FGM and, as often happens, was unable to have a natural delivery of her child. Needless to say, this made an impact on my life. As I said to the careers applicants – don’t do this work unless you expect your life to be transformed as mine has been!