Progress toward Ending FGM in Liberia?

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“The United Nations and its partners have placed traditional leaders in a difficult situation by calling on us to abolish FGM,” Cheif Zanzan (pictured) Karwor said.

Chief Zanzan Karwor: ‘We need plenty sacrifice to say goodbye to our tradition’

As the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with UN Women, observed the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in the country, there were telling signs that the prospects of eradicating of the practice from Liberia appear encouraging — and painstakingly so.

In spite of significant amounts of awareness raised over the years about the harmful nature of the practice of FGM, the National Traditional Council of Liberia has been entrenched in the practice.

“We are traditional people, but this is something we have been inside for a very long time. So if your want for us to cancel our society, we need to do plenty sacrifice to say goodbye to our tradition,” the head of the Traditional Council, Chief Zanzan Karwor, told a United Nations-sponsored annual awareness against FGM over the weekend.

Speaking earlier at the program, UN Women Country Representative, Marie Goreth Nizigama, told the traditional leaders that many women and girls suffer tremendously due to the practice of FGM as they live with devastating health consequences. According to her, the survivors often live with health problems such as pain, infertility, anxiety and depression.

The awareness day, which normally takes place on February 6 every year since it was established in 2003, took place this time on Friday, February 5, 2021, at Fortville, St. John River District, Grand Bassa County. The event was graced by hundreds of traditional leaders, government officials and international partners under the theme, “Together We Can Make A Difference in Ending FGM,” which is important and timely as it comes in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic which has negatively and disproportionately affected women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

The day was also held in partnership with the European Union and the United Nations Spotlight Initiative — that equipped women and girls to earn an income from alternative sources such as climate-smart agriculture, making soap, or tailoring.

Madam Nizigama underscored that girls who undergo FGM are also more susceptible to HIV infections and risk serious complications when giving birth and, in worst cases, FGM also leads to death. 

“If we want our young girls to grow up safely and healthy, we need all levels of society to say no to FGM,” she warned.

According to her, about fifty percent of girls and women aged between ages 15 and 49 have undergone FGM while globally; an estimated two hundred million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.

Additionally, Madam Nigizama said over twenty-five million people in around eighteen thousand communities across fifteen countries have publicly renounced the practice since 2008, leading to a reduction of the practice at the global level. 

“This is a significant progress, and Liberia needs to make that change for which policies actions and resources are required,” she said.

Liberia, she explained, has had its gains in the fight against FGM including, conducting an inventory that documented a total of 1,355 females traditional zoes which has allowed Liberia to strategically target the zoes and provide them with alternative economic livelihood activities in the five Spotlight Counties.

“These zoes have successfully organized village savings and loans associations, generating some alternative income in the place of FGM,” Nizigama noted, being hopeful that traditional leaders will eventually come around.

“We have to continue to engage with traditional leaders,” she said. “I think we are making progress because before we were not allowed to talk about FGM, but now the traditional leaders themselves are talking about it.”

However, the head of Liberia’s Traditional Council, Chief Zanzan Karwor, has resisted international pressure to end FGM in Liberia.

“The United Nations and its partners have placed traditional leaders in a difficult situation by calling on us to abolish FGM,” Karwor said, arguing that the livelihoods of the elders are built on preparing the women and girls to become successful wives.  

Karwor, who spoke through an interpreter, said he wants to see broader and sustained consultations with traditional leaders involved in FGM to help them find other means of work.

He, however, called on the partners to revisit the Ganta Policy (temporary document) signed in June 2019 to suspend all Sande Society activities including FGM for one year, highlighting an increased level of traditional leaders’ commitment and ownership in ending the practice. Chief Karwor said the document has expired and therefore needs to be revisited by all parties in ensuring that the right thing is done before canceling practice.

At the same time, Gender Minister, Williametta E Saydee Tarr, says plans are underway to permanently protect women and girls from FGM by making the practice illegal for good.

“We will continue to speak out about the risk and realities of FGM as it has lasting physical and mental consequences that need to be discussed so that girls and women no longer have to suffer in silence,” she said.  

Minister Tarr called on the traditional leaders to “build a consensus” that would abolish FGM, adding the UN, European Union and the United States were working with the Liberian authorities to end the practice.

With support from international partners, she said, the government was implementing a pilot project to provide new skills to traditional priests that operate the bush schools.  

Minister Tarr disclosed that a learning centre in Grand Cape Mount County will encourage other business opportunities such as catering, soap-making and tailoring.

17 COMMENTS

  1. This God Forsaken Country really sets itself up to be the real Banana Republic it is in the world.
    Pressure for improvement and development, or to change course or make changes, always come from the outside to the leadership of the regime, especially from the UN, the US, EU, and other international institutions, But Hardly Within or on their Own.
    This God Forsaken Banana Republic has to be pushed from the outside, before some mere cosmetics changes are made to have an impact on the lives of the citizens. Actually has to be pushed or bribed financially to put in meaningful changes. So how long have citizens been requesting for this change ? Perhaps over a century. But the non-citizens as the non-voting bloc such as the UN, US, EU, World Bank, IMF and other institutions are calling the shots behind the scenes and from the outside looking in to determine what is good for that country.
    If sanctions were imposed on the Banana Republic for corruptions, by the non-citizens as the non-voting bloc, corruption will be out of that Banana Republic within a month.
    Don’t want to believe that ? Then why is it that citizens of that Banana Republic when protesting usually makes their rounds near the US Embassy, the EU, the UN, the AU and ECOWAS mission ? The pressure from the outside, they called the shots from behind the scenes.
    The non-citizens as the non-voting bloc have more say-so powers than the average citizens that are unable to bring about any form of realistic change.
    How come ? Because This country Is A God Forsaken Banana Republic ! Don’t You Know That already ? A God Forsaken Country ?
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !

    • @# James Davis; this is about [HARMS] done to our fellow-innocent and under age citizens. Men, who support this aspect of our Liberian [CULTURE] do not and will never understand what it is like; to live with the stigma of living as a victim of FGM, the [BUTCHERING] of the [VAGINA]. It’s simply barbaric and cruel. It must be abolished.

  2. Mr. James Davis,
    It is written, “don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.

    Throughout history, God has shown that He does not forsake anyone or group of people. In my view, to say “Liberia is a land forsaken by God”, is equal to taking God’s name in vain.

    Outside of Biblical land, what are some of the contributions you can make to undo Liberia’s “banana republic” status? On the other hand, you seem to want your own country to be forsaken by God. Guess what James? Your wish is a pipe dream. God may be unhappy with Liberia because of the grubby things that some people do in Liberia, but be assured, Liberia is not a God forsaken land.

    Liberia is reeling through economic hard times at the moment. But the country’s hard times will not last forever. If you have any contributions to make or if you have any qualifications, this is the right time to show your patriotism.

    Thanks for listening Sir.

    • Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !
      What do you think the post is ? If not contributing towards the fight against ignorance and illiteracy that is responsible for where that God Forsaken land happened to find itself ?
      See, for contributions you mean only materials, and not enlightenment. Wow ! Hney ? How do you understand this, my people perished because of lot of visions. And then this one, but how will they know if no one will teach them ?
      How do you understand this ? My God, My God, why has thou Forsaken Me ? Like the God Forsaken Banana Republic ? In the case of that God Forsaken land, it is not about materialism, but about knowledge and vision which are missing. But for that God Forsaken Land, it is always about SILVER AND GOLD, SILVER AND GOLD. Could replied you Mr. Hney in the Biblical sense. Not today, but will remained political for now. Will remained political for now. Today is Monday and not Sunday. Will preached on Sunday .
      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !

  3. I think the South Eastern chiefs/ elders must be confused … what the hell is MGM they are asking their Northern counterparts! Lol…

  4. That’s right James Davis. To enlight one’s country, materialistic items are not enough. The knowledge that has been bestowed upon us by God and how that knowledge is utilized helps make the world spin on its axis. And so, when I ask about your qualifications and how you can undo the banana republic’s status, I am actually urging you to use your knowledge. Liberia will not be the way you want if you don’t use your expertise to develop Liberia. It is our responsibility to make Liberia better.

    Day after day, you argue that Liberia is a banana republic and a God forsaken land. You have the right to express yourself. My point is if all you do is to condemn Liberia, nothing will ever get done. In other words, your knowledge will perish with you. Frankly, Liberia is not the problem. The people who have been charged with the responsibility of making a change, have not lived up to their responsibilities.

    Lastly, you cannot fight illiteracy and ignorance (your words) by sending the country to hell. A change comes from within, my friend. I know there are humongous problems in Liberia. We can change Liberia without condemning Liberia.

    James, I am not in a fight with you. I am expressing my independent thoughts…as you used to say to me a few years ago.

    Peace

  5. To talk continuously about FGM and leaving out homosexuals, lesbianism makes no sense. Let the stakeholders talk to their brothers and sisters who are spoiling our young boys and girls around here. But this is the good news, all homosexuals and lesbians should start getting prepared to experience the full force of the pork oracle before stopping the FGM practice in Liberia!

  6. Let the homosexuals and lesbians in Firestone, Monrovia and elsewhere in Liberia stop sexing our young boys. Infact it is not true that FGM is the cause of barrenness. There are thousands of western women and other women who have not gone through the practice but are barren. What a false assertion the UN representative is making. Shame on all those who use FGM message to blackmail the African culture.

    • Ms. George; thanks! Hopefully, soon. Very soon! Let’s make that [BARBARIC] practice a crime in Liberia. Thanks to today’s modern technology. I’ve seen the graphics. It bleeds my heart. I ardently pity our poor and innocent little citizens; who are subject to that cruelty of FGM. Liberian “CULTURE” must protect all citizens from harms. FGM, butchering of a female’s [GENITAL] is barbaric. It’s harmful. It must be abolished in Liberia. Ms. George, I hope you will rally as many Liberian women as you can; against the practice of FGM. As for me, I have experiences from both sides of the equation. I definitely prefer the whole package. “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”. Gentle prefer the whole package.

  7. Miss Joan George,
    There’s a sense that you’re anti FGM. The question that I have for you is this…. what are you doing to discourage or abolish FGM?

    Also, please look at FGM this way. The practice of FGM (if I may term it as such) is something that’s done almost every where in the world. Example, FGM is practiced in:
    South America,
    The Middle East,
    Asia,
    East Africa (especially in Ethiopia) and other places.

    Another complex saga to the practice of FGM is that women cut women. You see what I mean? That’s kind of gross. As long as women become so bold and cut beautiful little girls like that, it ain’t gonna stop soon. I ain’t discouraging you.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not a supporter of FGM. I hail from a county (Maryland) where FGM is forbidden. I mean it. We don’t have a Poro or Sande society in the county of Maryland. I mean never!

    Miss George, I am not trying to discourage you. But I don’t think the practice or use of FGM will stop until the Second Coming. Ma Ellen couldn’t stop it in Liberia. But you can try. It never hurts to try.

    On the other hand, do you want the practice of FGM stopped in Liberia only?
    No, No, No, don’t go there! Be a good crusader. Think big. Don’t think local. You see, if you stop it in Liberia, how is it going to be stopped in the Middle East? Ethiopia? South America? Asia?
    Just a thought.

    Peace

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