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West African First Ladies to Discuss Female Circumcision Monday in Ouagadougou


First ladies from seven West African countries are meeting Monday in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso for a conference on ways to end female circumcision. The practice, also known as female genital mutilation is common in about 30 African countries despite national laws against it.

Expected to attend the three-day conference are the first ladies from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Togo.

Bahisimine Youl is coordinator with the Pan-African Film Festival known as FESPACO. From the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, he told VOA the West African first ladies want to bring world attention to the practice of Female Circumcision in the sub-region.

"Definitely it's about how to eradicate female circumcision in the sub-region, how they can put together energy, how they can synchronize energy because you know the phenomena in the sub-region is, I would say cross-border," he said.

Youl said the seven West African first ladies want to add their voices to the worldwide condemnation of the practice of female genital mutilation.

"Definitely they are against it, and in Burkina the law has been past against it. This practice has been carried out by old ladies. But as you will know, it is, I would say trans-bordor. They will just travel from one country to another just to practice it because you know Burkina Faso shares border with about six countries. So quite easily people can be moving," he said.

According to some reports an estimated half of the women in Burkina Faso have undergone female circumcision. Youl disputes the estimate. He also said the Burkinabe first lady is not going against tradition by her opposition to the practice.

"No, not that she's against tradition and even not half of the ladies are circumcised, but it is the fact that Burkina Faso has been the leader in this fight against female circumcision," Youl said.

Youl also disputes the suggestion by some that the growing opposition to female circumcision is western driven. Youl said the opposition to circumcision is due largely to concerns about its health hazard.

"There are really fighting against it because they have seen some of the bad effects of it, not that they believe it's a western idea, but they know that there are some very bad and negative consequences. The practice itself is done in very good condition. I mean they will be cutting 15 or 20 small girls with the same blade, which is very bad, definitely not healthy,"

Youl said.