Posts Tagged ‘FGM’

Profile: Bose Agbonmerele, woman human rights defender from Nigeria

July 7, 2016

On 20 June 2016 the ISHR Monitor contained the following portrait of Ms Bose Agbonmerele Iro-Nsi, the founder and team leader of the Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) in Nigeria. WRAHP is an NGO that works to promote community and women’s rights, reproductive health and children’s development.

Ms Bose Agbonmerele of the Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) in Nigeria.

As an advocate, Bose focuses on access to justice for women suffering domestic violence, child abuse, and cultural practises that are detrimental to health and contravene fundamental rights of both women and children – an example includes female genital mutilation. Bose seeks to create awareness of existing laws that address domestic violence, and educates vulnerable communities on their rights contained in those laws.

‘WRAHP previously received between 2 and 4 cases of women who had suffered domestic violence each month. Since engaging with the media and speaking publically on the common violation of women and children’s rights, WRAHP now receives about 5 cases and large numbers of calls every day from women in distress.’

Challenges and risks

Cultural norms and practise endorse a system of patriarchy in Nigeria. This means that raising children in an environment rife with domestic violence perpetuates a vicious cycle. Bose highlights the importance of focusing on building awareness within the family, as well within religious institutions and churches – which can then create further awareness about Gender based violence.

‘Gender based violence constitutes a further challenge. Domestic violence is often viewed as a personal domestic dispute, which results in law enforcement agencies turning a blind eye. This further drives a system of impunity among the community. Moreover, the stigma associated with calling the police on your own family member and the lack of independence of women puts them at risk of destitution.’

Bose also identified gaps and loopholes in Nigerian laws and policies that need strengthening. She identified 2 major limitations in the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, which addresses, among other violations, female genital mutilation and acid attacks. This law is restricted to the capital of Nigeria and often imposes fines for offences that should result in more significant penalties.

Some community elders have claimed that WRAHP’s work is intrusive to their culture and traditions. As a result Bose has suffered intimidation. However, she has maintained a holistic approach to raising awareness, including amongst men who might oppose her views.

Engagement with the international community

Bose explained that her experience in Geneva at ISHR Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme (HRDAP) has broadened her knowledge of UN mechanisms and her perspective about civil society engagement. Going forward Bose intends to incorporate the international networks she has made in Geneva into her existing regional networks. She also intends to engage with Special Procedures mandate holders to increase awareness about the human rights situation in Nigeria.

‘One of the positive aspects of my experience at HRDAP was the opportunity to share experiences with other participants. I learnt about the diverse issues which other human rights advocates face. The organisation of the programme and activities have been great.’

The change Bose would like to see

Through her brief experience at the UN, Bose has noticed the use of the phrase “intimate partner violence”. She believes the use of this phrase in addressing domestic violence overlooks other serious aspects of domestic violence. This term focuses only on partners, disregarding child abuse, parental abuse of children, and violence at the hands of extended family. Bose would like to see a more robust policy addressing all aspects of domestic violence.

Goals and objectives

Bose believes that it is crucial to understand successful strategies used by defenders working on other issues and defenders in different regions. Bose is grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with defenders working on different thematic groups, including LGBTI and business Human Rights issues. She believes that all activists share the same common goal and working together and learning from each other will help to improve advocacy success rates. Bose would like to continue engaging foreign missions to bolster her national advocacy.

In the long run, Bose would like to see herself as a regional and international advocate sharing her experiences on an international platform. She was impressed with the participation of young people in HRDAP and says she would like to encourage other young people to participate in advocacy training sessions in Nigeria.

‘I just can’t recommend HRDAP enough to other people.’

Source: Defender profile: Bose Agbonmerele Iro-Nsi, woman human rights defender from Nigeria | ISHR

Profile of Fahma Mohamed, a young British anti-FGM human rights defender

February 19, 2016

19 year-old British human rights defender, Fahma Mohamed, is committed to freeing the world of female genital mutilation (FGM), starting with her own community in Bristol, UK. From when she first heard about the practice of FGM from a teacher at the age of 14, Fahma Mohamed started to challenge its practice, one that studies estimate affects up to 137,000 women and girls in the UK alone.

‘I remember being in complete shock. I’m from an FGM affected community. Why didn’t anyone talk about it? Why isn’t anyone doing anything to stop it? Then I tried to put myself in their position. I couldn’t.’

Miss Mohamed is trustee of Integrate Bristol, an organization working, among other things, to eradicate FGM. Along with colleagues she spearheaded a petition campaign that collected over 230,000 signatures and earned the support of Malala Yousefzai and UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon. The campaign resulted in mandatory training for all education staff on FGM.

‘We are still fighting for awareness on FGM to be taught in all classrooms across the UK. So many girls, both in the UK and further afar, are going through this absolutely traumatic experience. I saw it as my responsibility to give a voice to these young girls, many of whom have no support system and suffer entirely alone.’

Miss Mohamed identifies as a human rights defender, seeing it as a means to give voice to victims and encourage and empower other women and girls to voice their own opposition to FGM.

‘Many women from my Somali community were once afraid to speak out. Now, they’ve joined our campaign and, most notably, pledged not to put their daughters or their daughters’ daughters through it.’ Fahma is quick to underline the vast difference in her work as a defender and the particularly precarious situation of many defenders elsewhere.

‘For me it’s inspiring to hear people put their lives on the line for freedom. My battles are incomparable to theirs.’

However, Fahma’s FGM campaign has received its fair share of backlash. When Integrate Bristol first started to work on the issue, FGM wasn’t mentioned in the media much. Many voices argued that the problem was being exaggerated. On one occasion a group of 75 men, led by a female councilor in Bristol, protested outside the premiere of their film on FGM, Silent Scream.

‘They protested and chanted against us, we were 14 at the time! Some men even approached the families of the actors in our film, trashing the movie as a “porn film”. They were insisting that our teacher was forcing us.’

Integrate Bristol works to encourage young people to get involved in the fight against FGM. They have produced YouTube films and songs, including ‘Buckle Up’ and ‘Use Your Head’, as means to spread the word. These resources on challenging FGM have been shared with anti-FGM activists in other parts of the world, notably in Africa.

Miss Mohamed welcomes the UN response to FGM, including the first General Assembly resolution on the issue in 2012. As the General Assembly Third Committee continues its negotiations of a new resolution, Ms Mohamed stressed the importance of ensuring an explicit reference to FGM as a human rights violation.

‘Young girls are irreversibly mutilated against their will, and devastated physically, emotionally and mentally. Surely the deprivation of rights over your own body can only be described as a gross violation. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of girls are being cut right at this moment. If the UN skirts around the issue, or hides behind euphemistic language, how will we help these girls? Or worse, how will we ever eradicate the custom if we can’t even say what it is?’

Miss Mohamed noted that if the UN did characterize FGM as a violation, this would resonate through the world, highlight the severity of FGM and underscore a global condemnation of the practice. She noted in particular that this could push the agenda in schools in countries such as Nigeria and Gambia where FGM is prevalent.

‘With education as our main weapon in this fight, we will end FGM once and for all.’

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/victims-become-human-rights-defenders-against-female-genital-mutilation/

 

This profile appeared in the Monitor of the ISHR of 10 November 2014: Fahma Mohamed: British anti-FGM human rights defender | ISHR

Six female human rights defenders Samah Hamid wants you to know

March 5, 2015

Samah Hadid – a human rights activist from Australia – writes on 6 March that the following women human rights defenders are worth knowing more about. I have abridged her text a bit:

Human rights activist Samah Hadid.

Human rights activist Samah Hadid. Photo: Supplied

This year’s International Women’s Day [IWD] is dedicated to women who ‘Make it Happen’, and plenty of women come to mind who embody this theme. As attacks on women human rights activists and defenders continue to rise, I think this IWD is a perfect time to celebrate the women who are champions for the freedom of others.

Salwa Bugaighis- lawyer and political activist from Lybia

Salwa was shot dead in 2014 and her assassination left me and many worldwide devastated. Salwa was a courageous lawyer who from a young age pushed for democracy in Libya. She was actively involved in Libya’s revolution and has been described as the “Libyan human rights activist who took on Gaddafi”. Salwa was also actively involved in Libya’s post-revolution transition, calling for the inclusion of women in this process. At every chance, she pushed for national reconciliation in the troubled country. We can all take inspiration from Salwa’s courageous activism. Her commitment to peace and freedom is a legacy we should all aspire to.[see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/human-rights-lawyer-salwa-bugaighis-killed-in-libya/]

 

Mu Sochua- politician and women’s rights advocate from Cambodia

Mu Sochua grew up during the reign of the brutal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. She was forced into exile and returned to rebuild her country.  As the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mu advocated to end human trafficking and the exploitation of female workers, and drafted crucial laws on ending violence against women. Standing strongly behind her principles, Mu stepped down as minister and decided to become an opposition figure in light of government corruption and repression. As a result, Mu has faced, and continues to be threatened with, imprisonment for criticising the government and Prime Minister.

Gillian Triggs- president of the Australian Human Rights Commission and legal expert

The head of Australia’s Human Rights Commission has recently faced an onslaught of politically driven attacks and abuse from leading politicians, including the Australian Prime Minister, for her human rights advocacy. Triggs, a highly accomplished lawyer and academic, has been unfairly targeted for promoting and protecting human rights, particularly on the issue of asylum seeker children locked up in immigration detention. Yet in the face of political pressure and relentless attacks by the government, she remains determined to fulfil her mission of protecting human rights in Australia.

Rebiya Kadeer- Uyghur activist and leader

Rebiya is many things: businesswoman, mother of eleven children, political leader and, let’s face it, one of China’s fiercest freedom fighters. As a member of the persecuted ethnic Uyghur minority in China’s Xinjiang region, Rebiya has spent her life campaigning for the rights of Uyghurs. Her activism has come at a price; Chinese authorities sentenced her to eight years in prison for her work and she was later forced to live in exile. Despite this, Rebiya – who is known as the ‘Mother of the Uyghur nation’ – has not been silenced by Chinese authorities and continues her activism at the age of 60! [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/challenges-for-human-rights-education-at-side-event-council-on-25-september/]

Yara Sallam- feminist activist and human rights lawyer from Egypt

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the age of 28, Yara is a leading human rights activist in Egypt. Her commitment to defending human rights, especially women’s rights in Egypt, is inspiring for a fellow young Arab woman like myself . As a feminist, she has championed greater space for women to exercise their civil and political rights and to be free from sexual violence. Yara was recently sentenced to two years in prison for attending a protest in Egypt, where it is now illegal for citizens to effectively exercise their right to protest. Even from prison, Yara continues to champion the causes of vulnerable women who have been detained and imprisoned.[for more on her: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/yara-sallam/]

Nimko Ali- anti-FGM campaigner in the UK

Nimko is survivor of female genital mutilation and a fierce campaigner who leads the anti-FGM campaign in the UK. She has propelled the issue onto the front pages of newspapers and into the halls of parliament, advocating for stronger legislation and policy changes. She is a co-founder and director of Daughters of Eve, a not-for-profit raising awareness about FGM and providing support to survivors of FGM. Nimko has faced verbal and physical attacks for speaking out and yet her advocacy remains steadfast. Nimko considers herself a survivor, not a victim. Her fighting spirit is one we can all learn from. I certainly have.

Six female human rights defenders you should know.

Victims become human rights defenders against Female Genital Mutilation

March 29, 2014

On 7 March 2014 UNHCR published a series of 6 videos on female genital mutilation (FGM), Too Much Pain, with stories of refugee women who have undergone FGM and have become human rights defenders engaged to end this practice. These women explain their experiences of flight, asylum and integration in the EU. These video clips deserve much wider recognition.

In Part 1, refugee women talk about why they had to flee because of their commitment to end the practice. The other videos explain that FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health and physical integrity; the right to be free from torture and other rights. FGM is harmful not cultural; it has life-long consequences and can be a ground for asylum. (See all videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtPw-Y91GlmWvO9wxMUW-Ey3eMY2vwWYZ )

This video complements the UNHCR publication Too Much Pain: Female Genital Mutilation & Asylum in the European Union – A Statistical Overview, and updated in March 2014 (see here: http://goo.gl/lDnCRJ).