Cross-border female genital mutilation (FGM) is becoming an increasing trend that is undermining efforts towards the abandonment of the same within the eastern regional block.
Studies have shown that about 71 per cent of women and girls from border communities in Uganda, 14 per cent from Somalia, 60 per cent from Ethiopia and 17 per cent from Tanzania have visited Kenya for FGM services.
In fact, the five eastern countries account for almost a quarter (approximately 48.5 million) of girls and women who have undergone FGM globally.
Overall FGM prevalence among women aged 15–49 in Kenya is at 21 per cent, while in Somalia it stands at 98 per cent, with 65 per cent in Ethiopia[, 10 per cent in Tanzania and 0.3 per cent in Uganda.
In all five countries there are areas where prevalence rates are higher than the national averages, especially in the border zones. In most scenarios, affected communities live on both sides of the borders sharing common cultures and customs.
FEAR OF PROSECUTION
Similarly, fear of prosecution drives the practice behind the curtains where communities move across national borders to evade the law.
But lack of a coordinated political, legal and service delivery framework enables cross-border FGM which greatly undermines the global goal to eliminate all forms of FGM by 2030.
Therefore, concrete regional action is urgently required to realize the commitments and investments already made to eliminate FGM in the affected countries.
It is with this in mind that the first regional inter-ministerial meeting is underway in Mombasa to address the issue of cross-border FGM.
The meeting brings together ministers of Gender and those responsible for FGM prevention and response from Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and host country Kenya.
The regional inter-ministerial meeting is scheduled to formulate a cohesive joint plan of action and declaration for the five countries to address cross-border FGM, with emphasis on four key pillars of legislation and policy; coordination and collaboration; communication and advocacy and evidence, data gathering and research.
Technical deliberations will take place from 15 – 16 April on the complex dimensions of cross-border FGM with representatives from participating Governments, UN Agencies and other partner organizations, ahead of the high-level ministerial meeting scheduled for 17 April.
‘AFRICA WE WANT’
This effort will build on the gains achieved during the 2018, ‘Africa We Want’ End FGM International Conference in Burkina Faso and the Saleema Campaign, where notable strides have been made through commitments by Governments to accelerate the abandonment of the harmful practice.
According to studies FGM is a form of violence against girls and women, and a violation of human rights and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation in the areas of education, health, gender equality and poverty eradication.