The Pacesetting Capacity Building Workshop to Eradicate Breast Ironing and FGM in Fako Division
Following a series of awareness building meetings with and mobilization of local administrative authorities, community leaders, civil society leaders, health practitioners, teachers and the media, on Wednesday the 26th of October 2016, under the patronage of the governor of South West Region and with instrumental support from the British High commission to Cameroon, MAHSRA held a capacity building workshop in Fako Division – Muyuka central at the Muyuka community council hall.
This event took lead with a street parade across Muyuka central with young girl students and pupils who were supported with exercise books.
Some of the young girls testified on their experiences of breast ironing practices.
With respect to similar activities previously done in Ndop and Douala at the divisional centers of Ngoketungia and Wouri divisions respectively and in line with the project titled “Legal and Social Awareness against Violence on Young Girls”, the pacesetting capacity building workshop centered around knowledge acquisition on the social, health and legal ills that enwinds the practice of breast ironing and female genital mutilation on young girls. With a strategic focus to engage the focal forefront players and community leaders that have the responsibility to effect change within the concerned community setups, an inclusive faction of the concerned stakeholders convened to face opportunity challenges on the workshop agenda. They included legal minds such as lawyers and magistrates; administrative and traditional authorities such as local government authorities, divisional ministerial delegates (MINSANTE, MINEDUC, MINPROFF, MINESEC, MINJEC, MINSA) ; traditional rulers (Yoke, Ekona, Malende, Boviongo, Bomboko); journalists; community teachers from different educational denominations such as the government, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, Islamic, and private primary and secondary schools, religious leaders reflecting the same former denominational options and other civil society group leaders from human rights and some influential women groups and associations.
Determined to educate these community leaders and probable change makers on the firm health and legal implications of breast ironing and FGM, the workshop facilitators also were keen in assessing the views and self-sustaining propositions of the various stakeholders. After formal and official presentations, the second phase of the workshop was mentioned to enhance group discussions and recommendations upon 4 questions.These worries were (1) Health Effects and Consequences of Breast Ironing and FGM; (2) Traditional Responsibilities on Breast Ironing and FGM; (3) The Psychological Effects of Breast Ironing and FGM on the Victims; (4) The Hand of the Law on Breast Ironing and FGM Practices.
Notably, during the formal presentations, the head of the economic and social department of the governor’s office Mr. Julius Tata speaking on behalf of the governor of the south west region, clearly indicated that there were no positive impacts on the innocent victims of breast ironing and FGM other than the egoistic wishes to pursue traditional ideologies of forebears. He as well remarked that the “rights and dignity of individuals who bear marks of such practices are seriously compromised if not violated, if not abysmally”.
The mayor of the Muyuka council on his part welcomed the participants and extended his gratitude to MAHSRA for initiated such an important workshop in his municipality and hoped that the activities continue such that the knowledge is widely spread in Muyuka. He also praised the initiation of such an important workshop holding within his municipality and council hall and congratulated the efforts of all the programme facilitators while noting that he is and will always be in support of all activities that coincide with the municipality’s will to foster community development.
The state counsel judicial authority for Muyuka sub-division, Mme Nkamngong Rose, who provided legal facilitation for the workshop expressly clarified that breast ironing and FGM are crimes punished by section 277 of the Cameroon penal code with sanction ranges from 10 to 20 years or life imprisonment depending on the circumstances. With insight interest on the topic matter, she further enumerated some moral and psychosocial issues that may cumulatively inflict punishable offenses against the victims and hoped that knowledge learned during the workshop be effectively propagated to mitigate the legal sanctions that the perpetrators will henceforth face within her legal jurisdiction and beyond.
Respecting the dedicated course of his NGO towards eliminating gender violence and fostering the SDGs, the CEO of MAHSRA Dr. Kelly NGYAH did appreciate the Cameroon’s government efforts for finally penalizing crimes relating to breast ironing and FGM as inscribed in the country’s most recent penal code amendments. After reminding the concerned stakeholders of the country’s duly ratified international instruments in eliminating gender and sexual violence for the wellbeing of the girl child to womanhood such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHR), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence and the Declaration on the Right to Development, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, he earmarked that to the community leaders and stakeholders present that though before now these acts were consider as a way of protecting their children, it was now time to take a back turn as these are outright violation of the rights of the girl child.
The south west regional education secretary for the Islamic religion and also the regional commissioner of the independent forum for the defense of human rights and freedoms Mr. Matanga Hans Hillary Hamza who served as one of the principal field facilitator towards the successful organization and management of the breast ironing and FGM campaign in the south west region, congratulated the presence of the invited personalities from Muyuka and beyond and applauded the commitment of all stakeholders in upholding the values discussed.
At the final stage of the workshop, the various group leaders handling the four questions and resolutions for the way forward in fight against breast ironing and FGM presented their group deliberations which were adopted by all participants.
Other interventions included the appreciative words from the representative of the clergy, the Imam, and the teachers who spoke lengthily on how much there had benefited from knowledge shared during the occasion and wished MAHSRA would come back to their communities and schools for further sensitization.
During the series of programmed activities, an endorsement form was given to all participants to obtain their personal communication information details such that at a later date the social media networking platforms can be used to share, follow-up and evaluate the workshop commitments.