Liberia: “Introduce Initiation without Mutilation” – UN Women Goodwill Ambassador
MONROVIA – The United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador for Africa on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, Jaha Dukureh, has spoken about introducing a program called initiation without mutilation in efforts to end FGM in Liberia.
“I think Liberia can end FGM by replacing positive traditional practices with harmful traditional practices. And one way we can do that, is to introduce a program called; ‘initiation without mutilation’. It will be nearly impossible to go into communities and tell people to abandon their traditional beliefs. It won’t happen in Liberia, if we tell the people to close the bush schools entirely, because you will never be able to accomplish that. But one way you can do that is to work with some of the traditional practitioners and acutely allow them to keep the positive aspect of those traditions they would want to keep without cutting girls,” she said.
Speaking in a recent press conference held at the One UN House in Monrovia, Ambassador Dukureh said Africans themselves should speak about issues affecting them and not allow outsiders to do so in their behalf.
“For decades the campaign against FGM has been going on, but the people, who were speaking on our behalf, did not look like us; they did not come from our communities and they did not understand why we practiced what we practiced. And, it was important we led that conversation,” she stressed.
Answering the question about her journey to being Goodwill Ambassador, she said it was not easy. Long before becoming Goodwill Ambassador, she started speaking against FGM when no one was willing to do so.
“I have had lot of challenges, especially with my own family. I became like an outcast in my community where people thought I was fighting my culture. Now people are beginning to understand that I am the most understanding person you can ever meet. Because I love this continent more than anything in life. Africa is my life. Now I am seen as a hero in my country,” she said.
Asked how she intends to end FGM in Liberia, the Goodwill Ambassador said she did not come to end FGM, but for it to be done by Liberians themselves. However, she came to Liberia in order to engage stake holders in ending the practice.
“If positions are being made about our communities and issues impacting our lives, we are to talk about those issues. When we talk about these issues, it’s not only about our personal experiences but speaking on what we have been through ourselves and knowing that a change is coming to our communities. But it has to come from us and has to be driven by us,” she emphasized.
While in Liberia, Ambassador Dukureh said she is expected to meet with the Legislature this week, and let them know that ending FGM is also their responsibility above politics. And her call to the Liberian Government is that a lot of progress has been made in ending FGM because she has held several conversations with ministries since her arrival. And she is equally happy to know that UN Women has been working closely with the Gender Ministry.
Answering the question if Liberia will end FGM, she said she believes Liberia will end FGM, as long journalists and media are involved in spreading the information.
“I am a young person in Africa and I think I speak for all of us when I walk into rooms. I am a representation of what our continent is. Because in using my platform, Africa has the most youthful population and today, looking in this room I see only young people as journalists. I am really happy to be having this conversation with you all because the journalists and media have a crucial role when it comes to ending FGM and ending violence against women and girls.”
TheUnited Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador for Africa on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage visit to Liberia is to add support to the country’s efforts to eliminate FGM, a harmful practice against women and girls.
Ms. Dukureh, who hails from The Gambia, is a survivor of both FGM and early child marriage. In February 2018, she was appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for Africa to support regional and global advocacy efforts to end FGM and child marriage. Alongside women’s organizations and civil society, she contributed to the Gambian government’s ban on FGM in 2015 after youth mobilization and campaigning in the country. She also contributed to an investigation on FGM in the USA during the Administration of President Barack Obama, and the subsequent Summit to End FGM at the United States Institute of Peace.
“The visit follows Liberia’s sign up to the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence in 2021 and is intended to support Liberia’s efforts towards the eradication of FGM through multi-stakeholder engagements and high-level advocacy and social mobilization,” says Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Liberia Country Representative.