Men commit to end FGM in Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso

9 April 2018

“Many men know when girls in their family are going to get cut, but they don’t do anything. This has to change.” In Ouahigouya, in the Northern Region of Burkina Faso, men are working together to end FGM. 

With a prevalence rate of 76%, and 53% of girls being cut before the age of 5, FGM is a widespread issue across Burkina Faso affecting the most vulnerable women and girls. But as one of the first countries to make FGM illegal in 1996, there is a strong national movement to end the practice. Despite multiple efforts by the Burkinabe government, NGOs and organisations working towards the end of FGM, there is still much to do.

Burkina Faso was one of the first countries to outlaw FGM  - in 1996. 

Through The Girl Generation’s work in Burkina Faso over the past 2 years, we have identified that engaging men in the movement to end FGM is essential to bringing about change – so we decided to bring together men to talk about just that.The Girl Generation’s Programme Officer in Burkina Faso, Abdrahamane Ouedraogo, reports on a very lively engagement.

Earlier this year, The Girl Generation hosted a workshop on the role of men in the movement to end FGM. Ouahigouya, the capital city of the Burkina Faso’s Northern District, and home of the Mossi people, was chosen as the perfect location for this controversial debate and discussion. The Mossi make up over half of the country’s population – and are known for a particularly conservative culture and resistance to social change. In Mossi culture, women are not able to play a significant role in decision-making processes – women have very little power or authority in either the family or community sphere. So, if men are the actors of all decision-making, how are they making use of it especially when it comes to authorising cutting?

The aim of this workshop was to provoke the contribution of all the attendees – most of them already had a significant experience in the fight to end FGM – to find out what role men can – and must – play in the movement.

The participants debated about their respective experiences. The talk was passionate and full of personal experiences. We came to the conclusion that many men know when girls in their family are going to get cut, but they don’t do anything. Some of them even travel when it happens so they don’t feel complicit of the practise.  This is an honest, and very real analysis of the situation, which gives us a strong starting point to work from.

We came to the conclusion that many men know when girls in their family are going to get cut, but they don’t do anything

A report from the organisation Bonnes Mains - which detailed their experience in promoting the abandonment of FGM in the Ouahigouya district, shared a particularly alarming story - “One of the managers of an organisation fighting against FGM found out that all his daughters had been cut by his wife without his knowledge. He has since divorced her.”

The discussion was lively and passionate – looking at the work done to date in Ouahigouya, and particularly the role of male students, traditional and religious leaders in the movement so far, and what more there is for them to do. Small groups were asked to brainstorm what it would take to engage men in the movement – and to present their strategies for change.

According to the panel, traditional and religious leaders in the fight to end FGM have already been engaged in the region, and as a result there have been several public denunciations of cutting ceremonies within the community and the successful career change of many cutters. There is also a toll-free support line in the region, which allows anyone to call and find out where they can get more information and support. There was strong support for the integration of FGM into school and university curricula as a way to raise awareness amongst both young men and women.

87% of men in Burkina Faso think FGM should end. 

After a day full of debate and discussion, the group developed their recommendations and commitments, as follows:

Considering that FGM is still practised in the Yatenga province;

Considering that FGM leads to disastrous consequences among women and girls;

Considering that men can and must play a crucial role in the movement to End FGM in Burkina Faso;

We, the representatives of organisations fighting against FGM, recommend:

  1. The creation of a consortium of organisations and NGOs whose aim is to address the issue of FGM in the Ouahigouya province.
  2. The creation of an action plan to fight against FGM, using the promotion of social change communication within the communities of the Ouahigouya province.

The Girl Generation is excited to support in taking this forward.

The event was also covered on local radio  - Radio Voix du Paysan – the most popular radio station amongst rural communities in the northern region – with some of the key segments translated into the local language Moore. This level of coverage means that the impacts of the panel will extend far beyond those in the room, or the organisations that were present - reaching at least 600,000 members of the grassroots organisations that constitute their audience. 

For more on this story, go to The Girl Generation Burkina Faso’s Facebook page.

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