Madam Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, on Friday appealed to African governments to improve upon their national budgets to help eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the Continent.
Gender responsive budgets, she said, must be urgently encouraged for effective planning, execution of various interventions aimed at reducing maternal mortality, as well as for the development of additional strategies to address the deep rooted negative cultural practice, by first targeting grassroots communities where the problem was endemic, she said.
Madam Djaba said it was a shame that in the 21st century, Africa would still be talking and battling with the practice and eradication of such a primitive cultural practice, which had no known benefits to the people, but rather affected their holistic development in areas including health, education, human rights and economic growth.
She said the practice of FGM in various regions and communities including Africa and Asia, was a major contributor to the failure of the countries to fully achieve their Millennium Development Goals on health, and that strengthened efforts must be pursued in order to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
She called on governments and all stakeholders to scale up interventions and mobilise more domestic resources as well as explore new strategies to address the current gaps.
We must also ensure intensified and sustained education, information, legislation, expand access to Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health services to young people, eliminate cross-border practices of FGM and provide care for survivors of FGM, as a major intervention to reducing Maternal and Newborn deaths.
The Gender Minister said there was also the need to look at the new forms of FGM, stop the medicalisation of the practice by initiating strong punitive measures, and support ministries of gender and health to raise the voices of FGM at the highest levels of governments’ discussions to get the needed attention to urgently address the challenges.
Madam Djaba said this at the end of a three-day high level international meeting on FGM in Accra, as part of the week-long events to commemorate the African Union (AU) Annual Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).
She said the Campaign, which was an initiative by the AU to accelerate the availability and use of universally accessible quality health services including those related to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH), that were critical to the reduction of maternal and child mortality, had since its institution in 2009, seen great support from African First Ladies in mobilising resources to address the challenges.
The joint programme by the AU-UNFPA, was not to develop more strategies and plans, but rather to ensure coordinated and effective application of existing plans and strategies to eliminate the practice of FGM, improve maternal and child health, and generally empower females to achieve their full potentials.
The Gender Minister called for the involvement of men and boys, who were supposed to be the end beneficiaries of FGM in the various discourse towards ending FGM and also build bridges with other stakeholders and development partners, saying Africa has no choice but to get it right for its future and current generations.
Ms Nafissatou J. Diop, a Senior Advisor with the UNFPA and the Global Coordinator of the FGM Programme in Africa, in a presentation, said 47 African Member States, Ghana inclusive, had launched and successfully domesticated CARMMA, with others yet to do so.
She said even though several strategies and interventions had been deplored so far, some challenges such as poor and delayed services at the health institutional and community levels, financial, transportation barriers, poor health seeking attitudes of people, FGM and other illegal cross boarder activities and traditional practices, posed major limitations to ensure the safety of especially pregnant women and other vulnerable persons from accessing quality care.
She said there was the need to intensify activities among governments and stakeholders to build synergies to avoid duplication of functions and to ensure the achievement of a common goal of urgently eradicating FGM and maternal mortality by improving maternal and child health through enhanced health systems and infrastructure as well as legislations.
Ms Beatrice Mutali, the Deputy Regional Director of the UNFPA, commended Ghana for her leadership role in the fight to eliminate FGM and reduce maternal mortality through integrated responses and approaches.
She said although change was happening on the Continent, increases in the number of girls called for the scaling up of SRH services including Family Planning to reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions that often resulted in deaths.