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Using sport to treat the symptoms of female genital mutilation in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Using sport to treat the symptoms of female genital mutilation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

On day one of the Peace and Sport Forum, Karateka Laurence Fischer shared experiences from humanitarian missions in the DRC.

Putting respect for human rights at the heart of sport – that was the topic of the final session on day one of the Peace and Sport Forum in Monaco. Facilitated by Massimiliano Montanari, the executive director of Save the Dream, the panel was comprised of five experts on the topic of sport and human rights.

Among them was Laurence Fischer, a three-time karate world champion who has won accolades at all levels of her sports. Fischer is the sport ambassador for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and she has participated in numerous humanitarian missions with the French women’s karate team and PLAY International. She has also worked with the Panzi Foundation to offer regular karate sessions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for women victims of war rapes.

Fischer spoke about her experiences in the DRC, a post-conflict setting. There, she met survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), for whom the mutilation went horribly wrong. They now have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cannot hold their urine or excrement. They are excluded from their communities and discriminated against.

Fischer met a doctor that supports the women in various ways (for example, sports, music therapy and medical rebuilding of the urinary tract) to help them reappropriate their bodies.

So why sport?

"'Because I feel empowered,' the girls and women say. 'Because I feel stronger.' Sport has the power to make these women feel better with their bodies."

They also work with psychologists, to make sure that sport isn’t making things worse. This approach – combining sport and psychological counselling – has been key to ensuring the project works effectively. It has helped them to have a better relationship with their children and to find a job.

Fischer ended her speech with a call for action on human rights:

"I know athletes that have suffered from abuse, human rights violations. They don’t know where to turn to. To the federation, to whom? There needs to be a systematic process, supported by the government."


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Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 16:23