30 June 2015

Raising awareness of FGM in Mali

Blog by Dr Ann-Marie Wilson. 

As we conclude our ground-breaking month-long trip to West Africa, we are now able to reflect on the context in which FGM, or excision, occurs in three markedly different countries.

Here in Mali where Ann-Marie has joined Gemma, our in-country researcher, FGM affects over 91% of women and girls. We were delighted to meet four significant national NGOs: AMSOPT, ASDAP, PACT and Sini Sanuman. It is only through the 80 Malian actors engaging in anti-FGM strategies taking ownership of this 28 Too Many report that this harmful traditional practice has any hope of ending. Gemma says: ‘As I live in Kayes, where FGM has the highest prevalence, it’s been encouraging to be invited to see local groundwork once I return from the capital.’

Throughout our meetings with prestigious international NGOs ranging from Plan to Islamic Relief, Save the Children to Amnesty International, Helvetas to Tostan, we have been pleased to see the intentionality of their work. Gemma reflects: ‘We have been pleased to have such a warm reception from all our meetings. It was especially good to meet Islamic Relief, who we visited in the middle of Ramadan, and we had an important discussion about our shared understanding that FGM has no place in Islam.’

In a country where for complicated reasons there is no anti-FGM law, we have been particularly pleased to be granted audiences with the Ministry for Women, Children and Families, the British Ambassador to Mali, a research journalist from the US and three meetings with UNICEF. Through these we have been able to share our knowledge of FGM across the nine countries where we have completed our reports and our reflections on the current barriers to reducing rates of FGM in Mali. Gemma was impressed by how supportive and helpful they have been: ‘Mali can be sidelined from other global campaigns and funding due to its recent troubles, so we have been delighted that key actors wish to use our report, disseminate it to other players and work with us to achieve our joint ultimate goal to eradicate FGM globally.’

Whilst visiting Gambia, Senegal and Mali, we have been honoured and humbled to be called ‘a catalyst’, ‘a bringer of change’ and ‘a stirrer of the pot of rice’. We are pleased to have made a contribution to sharing knowledge about this complex practice and in the fullness of time we hope that we can live up to these titles. There is serious interest in a gathering in Mali to further discuss the findings of this research, and to work together to overcome the obstacles and barriers to change. With hope, the power of synergy and goodwill, we expect to see a reduction in the statistics on FGM for Mali in three years’ time when we launch an updated version of our report.

28 Too Many is undertaking pioneering work to research FGM and campaign internationally for the end of this harmful practice. You can support our work by making a donation or setting up a standing order. You can also help us by liking 28 Too Many on Facebook and following us on Twitter for regular updates on our work.