Monthly Archives: February 2014

Inspiring Change by Ending Female Genital Mutilation

By Ahabwe Mugerwa Michael

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, in part because it constitutes an extreme form of discrimination. Within the practice, girls between eight and fourteen years of age are cut by elderly women who are untrained in medicine and often use unsterilized razor blades or knives. The practice, allegedly, initiates these girls into womanhood and subsequently leads to early marriages.Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.16.51 AM

FGM has no health benefits, and the harm it causes victims has both short and long term health consequences, including infection such as HIV from unsterilized instruments, psychological trauma, and, in some cases, death from excessive bleeding. Later in life, FGM can lead to complications in childbirth and increase the risk of the mother and infant mortality (1).

In East Africa, FGM is practiced by several tribes with proponents arguing that it initiates girls into womanhood and increases their chances of being married off. Other tribes believe that cutting off some of parts of the females genitalia like the clitoris reduces cases of girls and married women engaging in sex outside the boundaries of marriage. Promoters of FGM have little regard (if any) for girls and women’s lives lost or for the suffering that they experience after undergoing this cruel and life-threatening ordeal.

Despite the recently passed legislation against Female Genital Mutilation in some East Africa Community member States, hundreds of infants, girls, and women are still forced to undergo the knife. Young girls run away from their homes for fear of undergoing FGM and miss school while others drop out of school. Local political leaders shy from publicly condemning the practice for fear of losing elections; and in some cases they have even helped offenders escape being prosecuted in Courts of law. Girls and women are not informed about their rights and protection provided by the available legislations (2). My visits to communities that practice FGM in Eastern Uganda have exposed to me to the need to continuously inform communities about the dangers of the practice and to empower communities directly to take part in projects and efforts that end FGM. Such community empowerment emerges from increased investment in girls’ education, assisting local rights activists in leading anti-FGM activities, and continuously exposing the dangers of FGM through locally preferred forms such as film, and dance and drama performances, which can easily be used to engage illiterate communities.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.20.30 AM During my most recent trip in February to a community that practices FGM in Eastern Uganda, I met girls who had been forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation and needed collective surgery. As a result of unskilled surgical cutting, many of the girls pass urine uncontrollably and require surgery to fix their fistula. My trip inspired me to work to create positive change in these communities; and I am to help girls live in safer communities that promote their full potential as individuals. I decided to produce a film documentary about girls and women forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation in order to bring personal stories to the world about girls and women who are either at risk of being forced into FGM or those who have experienced health complications or death as a result of undergoing FGM.  I am now in my final stages to travel to Eastern Uganda, and Western and Central Kenya between April through to May to film and produce the documentary. Via Indiegogo I am raising funds to make film, organize public screenings across  East Africa, and carry out FGM campaigns that organize a procession of hundreds of Activists to deliver a petition to the East Legislative Assembly in Arusha Tanzania.  I am excited by the prospect of reaching to millions of people and inspiring change through film a to make a difference.

FGM is not only a women’s issue. Men must also actively take part in ending Female Genital Mutilation instead of promoting it, as is the case in communities that practice FGM, where men argue that it produces better wives. By educating about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation and assessing our community needs, we can then shape our own plans to completely stop Female Genital Mutilation. It’s our communal duty to protect and observe women’s rights and human rights, to end the social, cultural, and political causes of Female Genital Mutilation, and, above all, to demand for action from governments.  I am committed to lead the call for change and help girls live healthier lives.

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Ahabwe Mugerwa Michael is the founder of two nonprofits in Uganda: ICOD Action Network and Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies. He is the Uganda Ambassador for Global Minorities Alliance.

Currently he serves as an associate consultant with Praxis Consult International, working on a girl-child education program in South Sudan. He previously volunteered with Lawyers Collective as a Uganda research partner in charge of identifying, summarizing, and translating court cases that impact the right to health in Uganda.

In addition to working on ending Female Genital Mutilation in East Africa, he is a food rights advocate and change maker, and he and has 10 years in the non profit sector. Ahabwe is an experienced public speaker with who has shared work both Uganda, South Sudan, and the U.S.

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Works Cited:

(1) The World Health Organization, “Female Genital Mutilation,” Fact Sheet No. 241 (February 2014): http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/.

(2) Center for Human Rights and Policy Studies: www.chupost.org.

Image Credits:

Tracy McVeigh and Tara Sutton, The Observer, 24 July 2010.

UNICEF.


Answers, Questions, and Movements in the New Year

“The day may come,when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.”  – Jeremy Bentham (1)

The dawn of 2014 marks 225 years since Bentham drew attention toward the divisions among how Eastern and Western cultures viewed the ethical status of non-human animals, and since he infamously claimed that the question of a being’s status ” is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” (1). This year also marks 39 years since Animal Liberation entered the philosophical and activist consciousness, due to Peter Singer’s seminal work of that title.

Here at Performing Humanity, we work to raise questions about ethical and social status of humans, non-humans, and the Othered categories that further blur those lines. To that end, we’ve compiled a brief (and by no means comprehensive) collection of how and where we located new areas of inquiry that bridge 2013 and the year ahead. As always, our editor invites comments and submissions that further develop these dialogues.

* Shows such as The Walking Dead and True Blood continued in popularity, raising questions about the roles that mortality, reason, sentience, and physical appearance play in defining humans and humanness.

* In the popular music world, the difference among men and women — and the genders they perform — caused debate, bringing the work of Robin Thicke and the concept of “Blurred Lines” to the forefront of daily life. (For more on this issue in PH, see our past posting).

* In New York, a landmark case brought forward by the Nonhuman Rights Project called for the release of Tommy, a captive chimp. Filing a writ of habeas corpus, the group demanded that Tommy’s captivity was a violation of his rights.

* A series of undercover investigations led by the group Mercy for Animals exposed widespread abuses in dairy farms and pork facilities, leading to large scale media coverage and changes in how corporations such as Tyson Foods handle nonhuman livestock.

These issues and more have shaped our transition into the new year. At PH, we invite you to develop our conversations, knowledge, and questioning about them.

 

 

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Citations

(1) Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation,  Chapter XVII, Section 1 (1789).


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