First ladies from seven West African countries have ended their meeting in
Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on ways to end female
circumcision also known as female genital mutilation (FGM). The first ladies of
Burkina Faso and Niger were joined earlier this week by the special
representatives of the first ladies of Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo.
Female genital mutilation is reportedly common in about 30 African countries
despite national laws against it.
Nestorien Sangare is Executive Director of the Center for Research
and Intervention on Gender and Development (CRIGED). From Burkina Faso's
capital, Ouagadougou, she told VOA the three-day
conference agreed to find coordinated regional approaches on both governmental
and non-governmental levels to end female circumcision.
"I think the main conclusion
is to gather all the actors from the countries in the West Africa region to
join their initiative because FGM is a common problem. And now because of the
cross-border issue, it's definitely the time for them to join forces and
harmonize laws, and also to formulate a common plan of action. When it comes to
speak about the cross-border issues an NGO cannot discuss in the same way with
the government representative. So in every country it needs the government to
take a leadership," she said.
Sangare said the first
ladies called for Western donor organizations to also adopt a regional approach
to the fight against FGM.
"Yes, you have the same
donors who are providing resources in Burkina, Mali, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, they
are the same. But they don't come with regional approaches. If we have to
tackled regional issues, we need them to think about regional approaches,"
She said female circumcision
is not limited to just French speaking West African countries.
can tell you FGM is not about linguistic barriers. FGM is a cultural issue
affecting communities who are living in our different countries with no regards
to those artificial barriers that we had from the colonization era. Ghana has
the same concerns about FGM, but it is only in the northern party of the
country, Cote d'Ivoire has the same concern, Nigeria has the same concern. So from the English speaking countries you
have Nigeria, you have Ghana, you have Sierra Leone, and you have Liberia,"