Campaigners from Africa have called for more action to end ‘harmful practices’, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM), which they say remain ‘shamefully widespread’.
The young women were speaking at the Commonwealth Women’s Forum during CHOGM 2018, in parallel sessions on eliminating harmful practices and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
They described how stories of the survivors of FGM and forced marriage persuaded them to become advocates in their communities and now campaign for them to have control over their lives.
Ahead of the session, one campaigner, Hope said, “Being a girl has many challenges, especially for girls from my country. There are many things we go through. Therefore, I thought I have been given the gift to talk so why not use it for a good purpose to talk on behalf of girls who cannot talk for themselves, for those girls who do not have such opportunities as I do, why not use the opportunity on their behalf?”
Campaigners say these harmful practices endanger health, disrupt education, limit prospects for empowerment and social development of women and girls everywhere.
Sharing a message to Commonwealth Heads of Government, another young campaigner, Georgina said, “My message for the governments is that they should commit to ending all forms of exploitation of women and girls. Their commitment will show that they are protecting the fundamental rights of women and girls. It will mean that women and girls are important in their home, community and country.
“There is no better way for a country to flourish if it does not focus on addressing the barriers to women’s empowerment. This step will create an environment in which women and girls can live, learn, work and play in safety, and fulfil their potential free from the fear of exploitation.”
Leaders were asked to consider the Commonwealth Women’s Forum Outcome Statement which called for collective action in tackling child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting and increased funding and assistance in ensuring the full realisation of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women.
Participants to the Forum also reaffirmed their commitment to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence and harmful practices as barriers to the development as well as the full realisation of girls’ and women’s human rights.