On 6th February 2023, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, End FGM European Network held an event at the European Parliament, co-hosted with the Presidency of the Council of the EU and Members of the European Parliament. The event launched the Network's Annual Campaign for 2023.
The event, titled: “A roadmap to end FGM: stories of change from the ground”, was a space to discuss ways to end FGM by the fast-approaching 2030 deadline.
The conference was co-hosted by the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU, MEP Evin Incir (Sweden, S&D), MEP Maria Soraya Rodriguez-Ramos (Spain, Renew Europe) and MEP Herzberger-Fofana (Germany, The Greens/EFA).
It also saw the participation of UNFPA Brussels Deputy Director Elena Kasko representing UNFPA Brussels Director Birgit Van Hout; Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy Caroline Gennez; State Secretary to the Minister for Gender Equality Martin Andreasson, as well as amazing contributors to our panel discussion: European Commission Policy Officer DG JUST Maria Mollica; Change Mediator Emmanuel Kwame Ossei-Wusu from Lessan; and artist & activist Roland Zanga.
The agenda was as follows:
The opening speech was given by the End FGM EU Director, with welcome remarks provided by MEP Incir and MEP Rodriguez-Ramos, the latter introducing her speech in video. Our introductory speeches explored how the work to end FGM might be further facilitated at an international level while supporting Survivors & amplifying the expertise of anti-FGM activists from affected communities.
MEP Incir discussed the European Union Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence: "It is not a matter of WHERE FGM takes place, but IF it takes place. Enough is enough. The values of a society are in how we treat the most vulnerable members of that society. Survivors and communities must be supported so that girls and women of all ages are protected."
MEP Rodriguez-Ramos: "We must make an effort to keep working on ALL sectors, including migration, asylum policies and especially education and sexual reproductive education if we want to achieve the objective of Zero Tolerance for FGM."
See the full video of MEP Rodriguez-Ramos:
These welcome speeches gave way to the first keynote speaker of the day: the State Secretary to the Minister for Gender Equality, Mr. Martin Andreasson. In his online speech, he delved in depth on how FGM must be situated in the context of gender equality, singling out universal access to education and access to health & reproductive rights as key elements in combating FGM.
State Minister Martin Andreasson: "The STRUCTURAL nature of gender-based violence must be recognised. It is not enough to be against FGM, we must be ACTIVELY against it."
Mr Andreasson's intervention was followed up by a panel discussion on promising practices towards eliminating FGM, moderated by End FGM EU. The panel featured a diversity of experts and key actors of the movement to end FGM: MEP Evin Incir; European Commission Policy Officer DG JUST Maria Mollica; Change Mediator Emmanuel Kwame Ossei-Wusu from Lessan; and artist & activist Roland Zanga.
The discussion touched upon essential topics like increasing visibility for anti-FGM efforts, highlighting promising policies in the EU and promoting their adoption, and fostering relations between institutions, donors and civil society for the broader goal of eliminating FGM by 2030.
Lessan Change Mediator Emmanuel Kwame Ossei-Wusu explained why FGM is a priority for him: "Some of the men do not even know the effect that FGM has on women. So us men at this time should be doing the efforts to educate ourselves to understand how to end this practice."
European Commission Policy Officer DG JUST Maria Mollica expanded upon the role of legislation in stopping FGM by the 2030 deadline: "The Commission's Gender Equality Strategy is central to combat gender-based violence. Attention will be put on the practice of FGM in order to identify & target concrete actions that Member States can take."
Artist & activist Roland Zanga discussed the role of art in eliminating FGM: "Artists can imagine the world that we would like to have, and they have the power to describe that world to their audience. They can help mobilise communities, galvanise their efforts."
After the panel, MEP Herzberger-Fofana took the floor to give her reactions to the discussion and present some of the promising practices she considers important for anti-FGM work: "We need to involve ALL religious communities in our efforts against FGM."
She expressed it is crucial for religious leaders and other community leaders to come together and understand that FGM is not prescribed by any religion and its effects have serious consequences on Survivors' lives and communities' well-being.
A Q&A session concluded the panel. Among the answers discussed was the necessity for on the ground support and increased vigilance during the holidays, when those from practicing communities relocate to their come countries and girls are at increased risk of undergoing FGM.
The panel was succeeded by a presentation of End FGM European Network's Annual Campaign.
The End FGM EU Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer Myriam Mhamedi introduced the 2023 Campaign: "#Road2EndFGM: A roadmap to end FGM". She started by highlighting the theme behind this campaign: the urgency of advancing the elimination of FGM and the need for promising practices addressing FGM to be implemented and upscaled throughout Europe and beyond.
End FGM EU Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer: "Grassroots voices and research done by experts give us a clear roadmap to the end of FGM by 2030, a road that all actors must walk together."
Through the sharing of resources as well as storytelling, the 2023 End FGM Roadmap campaign will inform policy actors, key stakeholders and the general public about concrete ways forward when it comes to eliminating FGM. The resources produced during this year will be closely linked to the Network's FGM in Europe interactive map, bringing attention to the demands of the anti-FGM movement at European and national levels.
The Campaign Launch was followed by the second keynote speaker of the day, Ms Caroline Gennez, Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy. During her time on the floor, she expressed the necessity for wide-spread commitment across all social levels.
Minister Caroline Gennez: "People who have undergone FGM are not victims, they are Survivors. We are ready to do our part. Belgium is and has been a strong supporter of gender equality. We are fully committed to eliminating gender-based violence, including FGM."
While UNFPA Brussels office Director Birgit Van Hout could not attend, the event was nonetheless powerfully concluded with a speech of UNFPA Brussels office Deputy Director Elena Kasko. She stressed the importance of making anti-FGM work a global priority of intersectional and cross-disciplinary alliances.
Deputy Director Elena Kasko: "We need new partnerships to work against FGM, we need alliances between leaders, activists, and yes, artists, as Roland Zanga has shown us today. Each of us, from MEPs to civil society organisations, have a role to play."
In conclusion of our event, End FGM EU hopes that the conversations held during this event and the #Road2EndFGM Campaign will inspire more efforts towards the adoption and implementation of good practices and the recognition of grassroots and community expertise.
As part of the Campaign Launch, the Network has produced a toolkit designed to provide you with a map of the upcoming year and all the stops we have planned and all the roads we intend to walk together.