Tag Archives: africa

The Gambia bans female genital mutilation

President Yahya Jammeh outlaws practice that affects three-quarters of women in west African country

The Gambia has announced it will ban female genital mutilation (FGM) after the Guardian launched a global campaign to end the practice.

The president, Yahya Jammeh, said last night that the controversial surgical intervention would be outlawed. He said the ban would come into effect immediately, though it was not clear when the government would draft legislation to enforce it.

FGM involves cutting female genitalia often when girls are young to remove their labia and clitoris, which often leads to lifelong health complications, including bleeding, infections, vaginal pain and infertility. More than 130 million women worldwide are subjected to the procedure in Africa and the Middle East.

The practice is widespread in many African countries, including the Gambia, where 76% of females have been subjected to it. The age at which FGM takes place in the Gambia is not recorded, but it is reported that the trend of practicing FGM on infant girls is increasing. By the age of 14, 56% of female children in the country have had the procedure.

Highlights of the Guardians global media campaign to help end FGM

Jaha Dukureh, an anti-FGM activist whose campaign to end the practice in the country has been supported by the Guardian, spent the past week meeting cabinet ministers in the Gambia and sent them articles from the newspaper to inform them about the issue.

Im really amazed that the president did this. I didnt expect this in a million years. Im just really proud of my country and Im really, really happy, she told the Guardian. I think the president cared about the issue, it was just something that was never brought to his attention.

Jammehs announcement came late last night, as the president was visiting his home village on Kanilai as part of a nationwide tour. The announcement was unexpected for both campaigners and public.

The amazing thing is its election season. This could cost the president the election. He put women and girls first, this could negatively affect him, but this shows he cares more about women than losing peoples votes, said Dukureh.

Dukureh will return to the Gambia on Tuesday to thank Jammeh for the ban and to help with drafting the legislation that will enforce it.

A ban on FGM would be a significant development on an issue that has proved controversial and divisive in the Gambia, with some arguing that FGM is permitted in Islam, the major religion in the country.

Senior Muslim clerics in the Gambia have previously denied the existence of FGM in the Gambia saying instead that was is practiced is female circumcision. In 2014, state house imam, Alhaji Abdoulie Fatty told Kibaaro News, I have never heard of anyone who died as a result of female genital mutilation (FGM)… If you know what FGM means, you know that we do not practice that here. We do not mutilate our children.

Jaha Dukureh: Im really amazed that the president did this. I didnt expect this in a million years. Photograph: Mae Ryan for the Guardian

Mary Wandia, the FGM programme manager at womens rights campaign group Equality Now said: The ban is an essential first step towards ending FGM and we commend President Jammeh on finally announcing it.

A law must now be enacted and properly implemented to ensure that every girl at risk is properly protected. The government needs to show strong commitment and prioritise this issue in a country where three quarters of women have been affected and reductions in prevalence have been slow to materialise.

Though support for FGM is widespread in the Gambia, reports have shown that public support for the practice has dropped in recent decades among women across all age groups.

Support for the continuation of the practice is strongest among the countrys richest women and varies dramatically in different ethnic communities, with 84% of Mandinka women supporting the continuation of FGM compared with 12% of Wolof women.

This year FGM was banned in Nigeria, which joined 18 other African countries that have outlawed the practice, including Central African Republic, Egypt and South Africa.

Somalia, which has the highest prevalence of FGM in the world, has indicated it would like to end the practice, with a spokeswoman for the ministry for womens affairs saying it was committed to make this happen despite significant resistance in the country. Currently, 98% of girls aged between four and 11 are subjected to FGM in Somalia.

The Guardian launched a major campaign to end FGM around the world in 2014, with the support of the campaign petition website, Change.org.

The Guardian Global Media campaign works closely with local activists in the Gambia, Kenya and Nigeria to help them provide education and awareness on the issue and hope to expand the campaign to Sierra Leone, Senegal and Uganda next year.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/24/the-gambia-bans-female-genital-mutilation


8 Outdated, Horrid Rituals Women Are Still Subjected To All Over The World

Weddings, bat and bar mitzvahs, communions…they’re all ritual practices we’ve grown accustomed to.

Rituals are created by societies to establish a sense of community and oneness.

But not every ritual ends with a party and a cake. Even in 2016, there are still some cultures that continue to enforce ancient ceremonial practices — often at the expense, belittlement, and abuse of women.

Here are some of the most bizarre and horrific rituals performed on women to this day.

1. Force-feeding

Women in Mauritania are expected to be full-figured, so young women are force-fed a diet of 16,000 calories a day before their wedding. Young girls are overfed as children in preparation for this. Naturally, the practice comes with countless health problems down the line and can even lead to death from burst stomachs.

2. Crying marriages

Getty Images

In Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the Tujia people practice a strange Qing Dynasty custom called “Zuo Tang” that forces brides to cry every night before their wedding for a whole month. After 10 days of crying alone, her mother is supposed to join. Ten days after that, her grandmother. Soon, aunts, female cousins, and sisters join the cry-fest until the wedding day.

3. Female circumcision

Women in the Sabiny tribe in Uganda are forced to have part of if not their ENTIRE clitoris removed as a symbol of achieving womanhood. The process has a high chance of causing death by infection, but to Sabiny women, it’s all part of an elaborate test to prove their loyalty to their men.

4. Kidnapping

Certain sects of the Romani people — otherwise known as Gypsies and largely concentrated in Europe — believe that if a man kidnaps a woman he likes for three to five days, he has every right to marry her.

5. Teeth chiseling

The women of the Mentawai Islands in Sumatra have their teeth filed into points. This is said to make them more attractive to men. The local shaman bangs away at the teeth with a knife; later, they’re chiseled into something resembling shark teeth.

6. Beatings

In parts of Brazil, it’s customary to beat women in the streets as some kind of test for marriage. The woman is kidnapped and brought out naked into the town, where she is beaten by strangers until she passes out. This, of course, often leads to death.

7. Forced tattoos

Tattoos are cool…unless you’re forced to get one. That’s what goes on in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. When girls come of age, they’re expected to get either their stomachs, breasts, or backs tattooed in order to impress a mate.

8. Breast burning

There are cultures in Cameroon, Nigeria, and South Africa that press hot stones on young women’s breasts as a way to keep them from growing. Supposedly, the reasoning behind burning the flesh off the boob is so that the women don’t encourage men to rape them. This act is often commissioned by the girl’s parents.

While in most cases, these things only happen in extreme sects of certain cultures, the fact that the rituals are still performed is disgusting. What’s worse, if the women speak out about them, they are perceived as betraying their people.

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/women-rituals/


Nelson Mandela Fast Facts

(CNN)Here is a look at the life of Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of South Africa.

Death date: December 5, 2013
Birth place: Mvezo, Transkei, South Africa.
Birth name: Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela
    Father: Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, a counselor to the royal house of the Thembu tribe
    Mother: Nosekeni Fanny Mandela
    Marriages: Graca Machel (July 18, 1998-December 5, 2013, his death); “Winnie” (Madikizela) Mandela (1958-1996, divorce); Evelyn (Ntoko) Mandela (1944-1958, divorce)
    Children: with Winnie Mandela: Zindzi, 1960 and Zenani, 1959; with Evelyn Mandela: Makaziwe, 1953; Makgatho, 1950-January 6, 2005; Makaziwe, 1947-1948; Thembekile, 1946-1969
    Education: University of South Africa, law degree, 1942
    Other Facts:
    He was given the name Nelson by a school teacher. He was sometimes called Madiba, his traditional clan name.
    Mandela was called both “the world’s most famous political prisoner” and “South Africa’s Great Black Hope.”
    1941-1943 –
    Mandela meets Walter Sisulu who helps him get a job at the law firm of Witkin, Sidelsky, and Eidelman.
    1944 – Joins the African National Congress and helps found the ANC Youth League.
    1951 – Becomes president of the ANC Youth League.
    1952 – Opens the first black law partnership in South Africa with friend Oliver Tambo.
    1952 – Leads the newly launched [ANC] Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws, a program of nonviolent mass resistance.
    July 1952 – Mandela is charged with violating the Suppression of Communism Act.
    December 5, 1956 – Mandela is among 156 resistance leaders arrested and charged with high treason.
    March 21, 1960 – In Sharpeville, police fire upon protestors challenging apartheid laws; 69 people are killed.
    April 8, 1960 – The ANC is banned nine days after Mandela is arrested and the government imposes a state of emergency after the events in Sharpeville.
    March 29, 1961 – Mandela and all co-defendants are found not guilty of treason.
    June 1961 – Mandela begins organizing the armed struggle against apartheid Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nations). He travels in Africa and Europe studying guerrilla warfare.
    August 5, 1962 – Is arrested on charges of inciting workers to strike and leaving the country without valid travel documents. Mandela represents himself at trial.
    November 7, 1962 – Is sentenced to prison, five years hard labor.
    June 12, 1964 – Is sentenced to life in prison for four counts of sabotage. Convicted and sentenced with Mandela are Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Denis Goldberg and others.
    1980 – The Johannesburg Sunday Post leads a campaign to free Mandela. A petition demanding his and other ANC prisoners’ release is printed in the newspaper.
    1982 – Is transferred to Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison after 18 years on Robben Island.
    1988 – Is transferred to Victor Verster Prison.
    July 5, 1989 – Meets with President P.W. Botha.
    August 15, 1989 – Botha resigns as president and head of the National Party. Frederik Willem de Klerk replaces him and begins dismantling apartheid.
    December 13, 1989 – Mandela and de Klerk meet for the first time.
    February 11, 1990 – Mandela is released from prison after more than 27 years.
    1990 – Embarks on a world tour, visiting Margaret Thatcher, the US Congress, and US President George H.W. Bush.
    July 1991 – Mandela is elected president of the ANC.
    1993 – Mandela and de Klerk share the Nobel Peace Prize.
    April 29, 1994 – Elected the first black president of the Republic of South Africa in the first open election in the country’s history.
    May 10, 1994 – Mandela is inaugurated.
    June 1999 – Mandela leaves office.
    1999 – Establishes the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
    January 19, 2000 – Addresses the UN Security Council, appealing for help in ending the brutal civil war between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi.
    July 25, 2001 – Announces that he has prostate cancer and is undergoing treatment.
    January 31, 2003 – Mandela criticizes President George W. Bush‘s stance on Iraq, saying he has no foresight and can’t think properly.
    November 29, 2003 – Aids awareness event, the 46664 Concert (Mandela’s prison number) at Green Point stadium in Cape Town. The event draws 30,000+ fans with performances by Beyonce, Peter Gabriel, Bono, Bob Geldof and many more; and speeches by Mandela and Geldof.
    December 1, 2003 – Mandela participates in the signing of the Geneva Accords for peace in the Middle East.
    January 7, 2005 – Announces that his son, Makgatho Mandela, has died of AIDS and that the disease should be given publicity so that people will stop viewing it as extraordinary.
    March 21, 2005 – Hosts the “46664 concert” in George, South Africa, to promote AIDS awareness.
    August 29, 2007 – A bronze statue of Mandela is unveiled in Parliament Square in London.
    June 27, 2008 – A London concert is held at Hyde Park in honor of Mandela’s 90th birthday (on July 18) with all proceeds going to an AIDS charity. It is estimated that about 40,000 tickets were sold.
    July 18, 2009 – The Nelson Mandela Foundation creates Mandela Day to be held every year on his birthday. The purpose of the day is to bring awareness to community service.
    November 11, 2009 – The United Nations declares July 18th Nelson Mandela International Day.
    December 11, 2009 – The movie Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela opens in South Africa, Canada and the United States.
    February 11, 2010 – On the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison tributes, commemorations and marches in his honor take place.
    June 11, 2010 – Mandela makes his first World Cup appearance before kickoff of the final match.
    January 26-28, 2011 – Is hospitalized in Johannesburg and treated for an acute respiratory infection.
    June 21, 2011 – Meets with US First Lady Michelle Obama at his home in South Africa.
    February 25-26, 2012 – Treated for an abdominal hernia.
    March 2012 – The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project is launched. Google gives a $1.25 million grant to help preserve and digitize thousands of archival documents including items donated by Mandela himself.
    December 8, 2012 – Is admitted to the hospital, suffering a lung infection.
    December 15, 2012 – Undergoes successful endoscopic surgery to have gall stones removed.
    January 6, 2013 – A spokesman says Mandela has successfully recovered from surgery and a lung infection and is slowly getting back to his normal routine.
    March 27, 2013 – Is admitted to the hospital due to the recurrence of a lung infection.
    April 6, 2013 – Mandela is discharged from the hospital.
    April 29, 2013 – The South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) releases video of Mandela as he sits at home surrounded by South Africa President Jacob Zuma and other government officials. SABC and the African National Congress, which has been critical of media in the past, are accused of political exploitation.
    June 8, 2013 -Mandela is admitted to hospital with a recurring lung infection. The former president is listed in serious but stable condition and is breathing on his own.
    June 23, 2013 – Officials say Mandela’s condition has worsened in the past 24 hours, and he is now in critical condition.
    August 31, 2013 – Is discharged from the hospital to continue his recovery at home. According to President Zuma he is still listed in “critical but stable condition but responding to treatment.”
    December 5, 2013 – Mandela dies at his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton. South African President Zuma orders all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff through the state funeral.
    December 15, 2013 – Mandela is buried in his childhood village of Qunu.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/11/world/africa/nelson-mandela—fast-facts/index.html


    Robert Mugabe ‘not sleeping, just resting his eyes’

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    Zimbabwes 93-year-old president has been photographed seemingly nodding off at several conferences, but his spokesman says its an optical affliction

    Robert Mugabe is not sleeping in meetings as a series of images would suggest. In fact, his PR man has said, he is simply resting his eyes.

    The state-run Herald newspaper on Thursday quoted spokesman George Charamba as saying the 93-year-old Zimbabwean president has a medical condition that means his eyes cant handle bright lights.

    He spoke after Mugabe left this week for medical treatment for his eyes in Singapore.

    I feel like a failure when there is this reading that the president is sleeping in conferences no, Charamba said.

    The comments came after Mugabe was captured apparently dozing at a World Economic Forum meeting in South Africa this month.

    Theophilous (@tchiviru)

    #Mugabe sleeping at the #WEF during a discussion on youth involvement in decision making. Sad…. pic.twitter.com/OYQjuTkFE3

    May 4, 2017

    It isnt the first time he has been photographed mid-nap. It also happened during Ghanas 60th anniversary of Independence parade in March.

    Ismail Akwei (@akweiakwei)

    #Ghana is 60 and ongoing is the independence day parade. Mugabe is caught sleeping while ceremony is ongoing. #Ghana60YearsOn pic.twitter.com/5qajyiFnUw

    March 6, 2017

    Mugabes weakening health is being watched carefully in Zimbabwe. Images of him struggling to walk on a red carpet and toppling from a raised lectern in 2015 have trended on social media.

    He has been in power since 1980 and says he will run for election again next year.

    Associated Press contributed to this report

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/12/robert-mugabe-not-sleeping-just-resting-his-eyes


    Where the Mexico City Policy matters the most


    She has five children and works as a farmer in Budadiri, Uganda, east Africa.
    “I want to look after my children,” Mudua says. “But I am a woman alone, and any time a man could force me into sex and I could get pregnant.”
    Women like Mudua, thousands of miles away from Washington and the White House, are the ones starting to feel the reverberations of US President Donald Trump’s Mexico City Policy, reintroduced in January amid a slew of executive orders from the newly inaugurated President.
    Mudua currently receives her contraception from Marie Stopes Uganda, a non-profit that provides family planning advice and sexual health services across the country.
    “I’m going to be OK because I will not have to give birth to a child I don’t want on my own,” she says.
    But for Mudua and others like her, things are about to change.
    Named after the venue of the conference where it was first announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule” withholds American aid (USAID) from any international non-governmental organizations that offer women advice on abortion.
    Marie Stopes Uganda says that 94% of its outreach work, which aims to bring contraception to women in rural and remote areas, is funded by USAID.
    It estimates that these funds will start to dry up around September, which over the next three years could result in an extra 1.1 million unwanted pregnancies in Uganda alone.

    ‘US funds never used for abortions’

    Any criticism leveled at the President for the manner in which he signed the order (surrounded by a group of white men) or the potential impact on global health services was drowned out by the widespread condemnation and confusion that met Trump’s controversial travel ban announced three days later.
    Meanwhile, governments, NGOs and health organizations on the ground have been coming to grips with the far-reaching consequences of the policy, which experts say will have little to no impact on the number of abortive procedures.
    “United States government funds have never been used for abortions,” says Tewodros Melesse, director general of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
    “Even during the Obama administration or Clinton administration, it was not possible to use US funds for abortion.”
    NGOs that performed the procedure could receive US funding for other programs, though, including those related to contraception and sexual health.
    Now organizations that offer abortions as part of their family planning services — or even refer patients to other clinics that can perform abortions — will be prevented from receiving any assistance at all from the US Agency for International Development, one of the largest contributors to international development assistance.
    Melesse says it’s going to have a huge impact. “We’re going to be losing around 100 million US dollars over the next three to four years.”

    ‘Unequivocal’ evidence

    Major reproductive care NGO Marie Stopes International says complying and removing safe abortion from its services isn’t an option.
    The evidence is “unequivocal,” says Marjorie Newman-Williams, Marie Stopes’ vice president and director of international operations, that doing so would expose women to increased potential dangers.
    According to the latest WHO data, 21.6 million women annually are so desperate that they gamble with the risk of life-threatening injuries or even death to have unsafe abortions. Every year 47,000 women die from complications.
    “Agreeing to the Mexico City Policy would mean accepting their fate and turning our backs on the very women who need us most,” says Newman-Williams.
    In 2003, shortly after the policy was last introduced by George W. Bush, the Center for Reproductive Rights published a report highlighting horror stories from women who’d sought out surgery from the wrong practitioners.
    In one example, a poor 17-year-old house help wanted to terminate her pregnancy.
    The person she went to see “did not know the anus from the vagina,” one Kenyan NGO reported. “He destroyed her anus, rectum, uterus and some of the small intestine.”

    Contraception conundrum

    Newman-Williams says that laws attempting to stop women from having abortions don’t work because they don’t stop the need for women to have abortions in the first place.
    And, paradoxically, as NGOs lose funding and are less able to provide contraception, the number of unwanted pregnancies is only likely to increase, which drives up the demand for abortions.

    Washington-based Impassioned Advocates for Girls and Women reports that after the last reinstatement of the policy in 2001, shipments of US-donated condoms and contraceptives completely stopped to 16 developing countries — mainly in Africa.
    Family planning providers in another 16 countries (also mainly in Africa) lost access to condoms and contraceptives because they refused to accept the conditions of the Mexico City Policy.
    One healthcare worker on the ground in Uganda told CNN she currently issues contraceptive injections to between 30 and 50 women a month.
    “Women will walk for many miles to a health clinic and find that they cannot provide the services,” says Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) volunteer Akiiki Jemimah Mutooro. RHU anticipates it will lose $420,000 in funding.
    “If we are unable to continue this service, many women will lose out.”
    The reduction in access to contraception will also have a profound impact on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including the battle with HIV, according to IPPF.
    “All the effort the United States has made over the years to support funding for HIV Aids initiatives is going to be affected by telling organizations who have received funding … that they cannot inform the patient about abortion,” says Melesse.

    She decides?

    Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be one of the hardest-hit regions, says Marie Stopes International’s director of strategy, Maaike van Min.
    It’s the largest recipient of American aid and already has more abortion-related deaths than any other continent.
    She says a lot of work is being done on domestic financing, but social welfare systems are still in their infancy across much of the developing world and there are competing priorities for scarce resources. “It will be a challenge to try to meet the funding gap,” she says.
    In February, dozens of governments and private philanthropists pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to a global fundraising initiative called She Decides, launched by Dutch Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen.
    In 2002, the European Commission came forward and said it wanted to make up the shortfall after Bush’s reinstatement of the policy. This was an important move, says Melesse, because it proved “the US cannot tell the world how women’s health and sexual reproductive health should be handled.”
    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says President Trump has always made it very clear that he’s pro-life and he’s staying true to his pre-election promises.
    “He wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn, and I think the reinstatement of this policy is not just something that echoes that value, but respects taxpayer funding as well,” Spicer said in a press briefing at the time.
    In January, Republican Congressman Chris Smith, chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, lauded the move in a press release.
    “Organizations like Marie Stopes International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation have reported performing over 1 million abortions annually,” Smith said, citing a January 2017 poll where 83% of American respondents said they opposed US tax dollars being used to support abortion abroad — but omitting that in the same poll 52% of Americans also said they were pro-choice.
    The deprivation of this choice for women in less-privileged circumstances is what jars with Melesse the most.
    “This government is coming and telling the rest of the world: you cannot have the democracy that the United States has,” he says. “That’s really the most critical part.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/africa/mexico-city-policy-impact/index.html