e2c, i may be more knowledgeable on this topic than you think. i don't rely on youtube videos to educate me on a subject. i've read a lot on this topic and most of my reading has been of reports based on field research in africa. youtube videos and books such as waris dirie's can be good tools for promoting awareness, but they are one sided and often sensationalize the topic. i don't read most of the stuff that comes from anti-fgm websites because often they are not factual and they promote misinformation. for example, you will come across articles that quote the w.h.o. as saying that fgm accounts for 80% of birth complications. not true at all. the w.h.o. stated that infibulation may increase complications in delivery. infibulation is common in some east african countries, but it is a more extreme procedure which is not commonly practiced elsewhere. so they take things totally out of context. they propagate a lot of myths. they probably think the ends justify the means. they don't. if you want to effect change then educate people with the real facts.
i'm not in any way arguing the rights or wrongs of fgc. i think we're all beyond that here. my stance is a humanitarian one. in other words, working together towards understanding and positive change. respect is the primary principle behind such work. you don't go to someone's house and just criticise what you see. doing so is reminiscent of the attitudes that europeans had in the past when they described africans as primitive, immoral and uncivilised. you first need to have an insider's view on why these practices exist and why they are important to the communities involved. not the reductionist view propagated by feminists, but the multiplicity of views presented to researchers on the field who actually bothered to ask the women themselves, including the elders who perform the procedures in question. the answers given may also differ from one ethnic group to another, just as the practices themselves do.
malinke and other mande people do not like to speak about controversial or taboo subjects. if you use judgemental or sensationalist terms then you will not have any success in engaging in a conversation with them about such things. mande people put high importance on manners as is evident in their notoriously long greeting rituals. one needs to be sensitive if one is to earn the level of respect that leads to educating people and effecting change.
i focus on mande because it is the focus of this website and because customs and attitudes of mande people are unique from those elsewhere in africa.
my intention is to share some of the facts revealed by research on this subject, specifically in the mande region. i hope also to have west african views represented here, but this will only happen if people show proper sensitivity toward cultures other than their own. being truly sensitive includes the understanding that this is an even harder topic for a mande person to talk about than it is for a westerner.
i have heard many opinions about the ngo's that target fgc being disrespectful and therefore unsuccessful. however, that is not always the case and there have been some very important victories won. i will later quote some of these victories, but off the top of my head there was one in which about 30 female 'excisors' in senegal renounced the practice. these victories always result from education with factual information, using a culturally sensitive approach. they didn't use terms such as 'mutilation', at least to begin with. in addition, they sought, with consultation of the communities involved, to replace the excision with another ritual, in order to maintain cultural and spiritual meaning in line with the community's traditions. some of the key statements in the guinean afaf video you posted are:
that's when i realised that, with a lot of subtlety, we could speak with parents to demystify childbirth and then excision.
it's a participatory and community approach based on dialogue.
note that at no time did anyone in afaf use the term 'mutilation', but instead spoke of excision
, which is the accepted term in francophone west africa.
waris dirie makes the claim that fgc is not culture. this may be true in her country where the practice has lost cultural relevance and seems to be all about ensuring a girl is able to be married off. you cannot paint all of africa with one brush. an approach which is culturally appropriate to each community is needed. mind you, i commend waris dirie for taking a public stance against such practices. she has been a great embassador for the cause. one of her main goals was to cause awareness and legislative change in the west and her involvement helped achieve it. in the years that followed, some legislative change occured in many african nations.
guinea is one of the countries that made female genital cutting illegal in the late 90s. before that, guinea was reported to have the highest incidence in west africa, at around 98%. since 1998 it has been around 20%. there are no recent studies to indicate what the trends would be today. the other west african countries that have made female genital cutting illegal are nigeria, ghana, togo, benin, ivory coast, burkina faso and senegal. senegal's incidence was also around 20% in the late 90s. the laws against female genital cutting dish out serious sentences for anyone convicted of an offence. yet, fgc continues to be practiced. burkina faso reportedly has a rate of around 70% despite prohibition. so although prohibition may help, it is not the answer. it's great that some inroads have been made in those countries. more on that later.
e2c, i think i have explained myself abundantly, although i'm not convinced you fully read and digested my statements. my first post was certainly not an apology of any kind. i stand by my statements re: appropriate language.