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Using sport to fight female genital mutilation

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Using sport to fight female genital mutilation

People are speaking out and grassroots organisations are using sport as a tool to tackle the issue.

A non-medical procedure

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a term which covers all procedures which intentionally alter the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around “140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM”. There are various organisations which are using sport to spread the message against FGM.

Speaking out
In a Women Win video, Aman speaks openly about the problem, mentioning one girl who underwent the procedure and never returned to football training because of complications causing severe pain in her leg.  It is excellent news that people are speaking out against this practice. FGM causes severe health complications for women who have undergone it.

I wanted to die
Waris Dirie, a human rights activist, supermodel and author who underwent the procedure, wrote about her experience. “The tiny hole the circumciser had left me only permitted urine to escape one drop at a time. It took me about ten minutes to urinate. My periods were a nightmare always. I couldn't function for several days each month; I simply went to bed and wanted to die so the suffering would stop”.

Role models and open discussions
The Maasai Cricket Warriors, young, male cricketers who are role models in their communities, are one example of people using their status in sport to campaign against FGM. They use cricket as a vehicle for spreading the word against social problems. Fatuma Abdulkadir Aman, executive director of the Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI), includes open discussion about FGM as part of the girls’ football programme which she runs.

Transcending cultures
Culture and religion have been used to justify FGM. No culture or religion should, however, be misused to justify life-endangering practices that cause millions of women unbearable, life-long pain and infringe on their reproductive rights. There are many initiatives for combating FGM. Sport can transcend cultural divisions meaning that it is a good way of spreading messages. Not only can it be used to challenge cultural norms, but it can also be used in reconciliation, and in the creation of space for new interpretations of dangerous cultural practices. This is what HODI and the Maasai Cricket Warriors are aiming to achieve.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]

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Article type

News

Author

Bridget Black

Published

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 09:00