Campaigning for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Democracy, the Rule of Law and International Justice
NPWJ's Gender and Human Rights Program History
The commitment of NPWJ against the practice FGM dates to 2000 when, at the initiative of Emma Bonino, at that time Member of the European Parliament, a resolution denouncing FGM was adopted, which led to the organisation of the Conference “International Day Against FGM” at the European Parliament in November of the same year, an event that attracted significant media attention.
The impact of this first public meeting led NPWJ to launch a specific project focused on FGM, in partnership with AIDOS (Italian Association for Women in Development) and seven other NGOs from Africa and the Middle East. The project, “Stop FGM: an International Campaign to Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation”, was designed to sensitise public opinion, train FGM abandonment experts and trainers and strengthen existing anti-FGM legislation in Africa.
As part of this campaign, on 10 December 2002, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, NPWJ organised a major international conference at the European Parliament in Brussels calling on global leaders and Nobel laureates to take a leadership role in the campaign against FGM. This event launched the “StopFGM Appeal to the International Community for the elimination of FGM”, which was subsequently published in several national and international newspapers and magazines and signed by more than 20,000 people world-wide.
On 21-23 June 2003, NPWJ organised the International Conference in Cairo on “Legal Tools for the Prevention of FGM” together with AIDOS and Egyptian NGO partners. The conference was held under the auspices of H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt, and was organised in cooperation with the National Committee for Maternity and Childhood, with the participation of representatives and experts of governments, parliaments and civil society from 27 countries. The International Conference in Cairo was a turning point in the “Stop FGM” campaign. Its final declaration, adopted by all participants, unanimously condemned this harmful practice, calling on governments, national and international organisations, civil society actors and religious leaders to confirm their resolve to promote legal tools as a key instrument for the prevention of the practice. It also emphasised the strategic importance of communication, education and political commitment to increase awareness on the serious damaging consequences that the practice of FGM has on women’s health, stating that it shatters women's dignity and that it is a flagrant violation of fundamental women's rights enshrined in international treaties.
In this phase the campaign was co-financed by the European Union, the Open Society Institute, UNIFEM, UNFPA, the personal contribution of Ms Elsa Peretti and by other donors.
Three weeks after the adoption of the "Cairo Declaration on the elimination of FGM", the second summit of the African Union in Mozambique adopted on 11 July 2003 an additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights: the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.
The Protocol is a regional human rights instrument underlining the specific measures for the elimination of discrimination against women, that addresses a wide range of women’s rights, including the right to dignity, to life, integrity and security of the person, to the elimination of harmful traditional practices, the protection of women during armed conflict, to education and training, to economic and social welfare, and to health and reproductive rights. Crucially, and as a result of the work of key FGM activists in the political process, the Protocol includes Article 5, which explicitly condemns FGM as a violation of women’s rights for which specific prohibitive legislative measures are required of ratifying states.
In 2004, NPWJ launched a new program within the framework of its “Stop FGM” Campaign to support the entry into force and the implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, as part of the development of a political, legal and social environment favourable to the abandonment of FGM. The campaign was conducted in partnership with both Governments, Parliamentarians and civil society throughout Africa, in particular the Association of Media Women In Kenya (AMWIK), the Djibouti National Women’s Union, the Association Malienne pour le Suivi et l’Orientation des Pratiques Traditionnelles (AMSOPT), theEuropean Network against Harmful Traditional Practices, and in cooperation with RAINBO, AIDOS, TOSTAN and UNICEF.
On 16-18 September 2004, NPWJ and AMWIK organised in partnership with the Government of Kenya an international conference in Nairobi, on “Female Genital Mutilation: Developing a Political, Legal and Social Environment to Implement the Maputo Protocol”. The conference concluded with the firm commitment of the Government of Kenya (at the highest level) to ratify and implement the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Participating government and civil society delegations unanimously adopted the Nairobi Declaration, affirming their willingness to take all necessary steps to adopt national legislation implementing the provision of the Protocol as an important component of the development of a political, legal and social environment to stop the practice of FGM.
On 2-3 February 2005, NPWJ and the Djibouti National Women’s Union organised in partnership with the Government of Djibouti a sub-regional conference in Djibouti, entitled "Towards a Political and Religious Consensus Against Female Genital Mutilation". The Conference, attended by governmental representatives, parliamentarians, civil society exponents as well as by the highest Islamic religious authorities from Djibouti and countries of the Sub-Region, concluded with the unanimous adoption of the Djibouti Declaration which states that FGM is a violation of human rights which finds no religious basis in the Qur'an - as well as in other revealed religions (Christianity and Judaism) - to justify its perpetuation, and recommends the ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa by all AU-member countries. At the conclusion of the Conference, the First Minister of Djibouti also delivered the instrument of ratification of the Protocol to the representative of the African Union.
On 29 November 2005, following the deposit of the fifteenth ratification, the Protocol entered into force, and NPWJ focussed its campaign on expanding the ratifying base of the Protocol to countries that had not ratified, as well as on working towards the adoption of national implementing legislation.
On 21 and 22 February 2006, NPWJ and AMSOPT organised, in collaboration with the Government of Mali, through the Ministry for the Promotion of Woman, Childhood and Family, in Bamako, Mali a “Sub-Regional Conference on Female Genital Mutilation and the implementation of the Maputo Protocol”. The Conference, attended by representatives of governments, parliaments and civil society from Mali as well as countries of the Sub-Region (including Benin, Burkina-Faso, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo), provided an occasion to highlight the existing consensus within the Sub-Region around the ratification of the Protocol and to discuss effective application of its obligations through the adoption at national level of legislative measures aimed at bringing an end to FGM.
This phase of the campaign was co-financed by the Government of Italy, via UNICEF, as well as by the Governments of Austria, Canada, France, Germany (GTZ), Norway, The Netherlands and Sweden, as well as CARE, PLAN, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, USAID, WHO, the World Bank, the European Commission and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.
Once the Maputo Protocol came into force, NPWJ focused efforts on ensuring that affected African countries adapt their national legislation to implement this binding international treaty. Public information and advocacy campaigns focused on strengthening the strategic planning capacity of anti-FGM advocates within both the Governments and civil society. Outreach programs promoting open discussions were conducted, including a Workshop on FGM Legislation and the African Union Protocol on Women's Rights in Africa, held in Khartoum, Sudan, in December 2007, the Regional Conference on the Elimination of FGM held in Asmara, in March 2008 and the Parliamentary Workshop on FGM Legislation held in Djibouti, in October 2008.
On 14 and 15 December 2008 a High Level Meeting was held in Cairo on the initiative of the First Lady of Egypt and Emma Bonino. The conference was an occasion for government representatives and civil society activists to take stock of the intervening years’ achievements in their campaigns against FGM. To maintain momentum, the participants called for a follow-up conference to take place within a year in order to continue to foster a favourable political climate and as an occasion to report on the implementation of the recommendations formulated in Cairo with the Cairo Declaration + 5. The First Ladyof Burkina Faso, who attended the High-Level Meeting, offered to host the follow-up conference in Ouagadougou.
Throughout 2009, activities continued to be aimed at developing a legal, political and social environment favourable to the elimination of FGM as a form of violence and a violation of the rights of women. The focus was primarily on those African countries where the practice is prevalent and where there is political will to address the issue, by bringing together Members of the Parliament with representatives from the judiciary, civil society and relevant government ministries to mobilize political and parliamentary will towards the development of national legislation banning FGM.
NPWJ in partnership with the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) organised a National parliamentary Workshop “Engaging Parliament towards Ending Female Genital Mutilation”, in Banjul, The Gambia, on 29 September 2009.
The High-Level Meeting “From Cairo to Ouagadougou: Towards a Global Ban of Female Genital Mutilation” took place in Ouagadougou on 9-10 November 2009. The high-level meeting was organised with the Government of Burkina Faso, through the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity, and with the support of the Italian Cooperation and in partnership with UNOPS. It was held under the patronage of the First Lady of Burkina Faso, H.E. Mrs Chantal Compaoré, and attended by ministers, parliamentarians and civil society representatives from 13 West African countries concerned by the practice. This meeting provided a renewed opportunity for assessing the progresses achieved and the major challenges encountered during anti-FGM campaigns. Critically, it also reinforced the opportunities for strengthening and accelerating the global movement towards the prohibition of FGM as a violation of human rights.
Together with the Mauritanian Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (AMPSFE - IAC Mauritania), and the Mauritanian Network of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, a parliamentary Workshop on “Female Genital Mutilation and the Law” was held on 3-4 February 2010 at the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
The Inter-parliamentary Conference “To harmonize the legal instruments prohibiting FGM: consolidating the achievements, sharing the successes, pursuing the advancements! Towards the ban of the practice at the United Nations”, held on 3-4 May 2010 in the premises of the Conseil Economique et Social, in Dakar, was organized by NPWJ in partnership with the Ministry for Family Affairs, Food Security, Women Entrepreneurship, Micro-Finance and Early Childhood of Senegal and the Senegalese organisation La Palabre, and with the financial support of Italian Cooperation, UNOPS, UNFPA, UNICEF, and the Municipality of Rome.
The Dakar Inter-parliamentary Conference concluded with the adoption of a Final Declaration stressing the need to work for a universal ban on FGM which, as a wide-scale and blatant violation of the human rights of women and girls, represents a challenge for the international community. Among its main recommendations, the Final Declaration calls for the adoption of a resolution explicitly banning FGM worldwide as a violation of human rights of women and girls during the 65th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The Inter-parliamentary Conference consolidated the willingness of parliamentarians, government and civil society representatives gave impetus to the public mobilization and helped the adoption of concrete measures by African governments and parliaments, with the objective to support the adoption of a UN Resolution banning FGM.
On 8 June 2010, the Parliament of Ugandan unanimously adopted a motion requesting the Head of State, as well as the East African Community and the African Union, to present a Resolution banning female genital mutilation worldwide at the forthcoming 65th Session of the UN General Assembly in September 2010.
Recalling the Final Declaration of the Dakar Inter-parliamentary Conference, the Ugandan parliamentary motion states that female genital mutilation, as a wide-scale and blatant violation of the human rights of women and girls, is a challenge to the international community as a whole, which needs to be addressed by the United Nations, also in order to consolidate the measures that individual countries have already taken as well as to spur commitments by states which have not already done so to facilitate the common goal of eliminating female genital mutilation once and for all.
Towards a UNGA Resolution 2011-2012
In 2011-2012, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) Female Genital Mutilation Program focused on a campaign for the adoption of a Resolution to explicitly ban female genital mutilation (FGM) by the United Nations General Assembly.
To this end, NPWJ, in cooperation with the partners of the Ban FGM Coalition, conducted activities: (1) in Africa, mobilizing the most committed parliamentarians and activists to involve them in the campaign for the UNGA Resolution, and continuing the engagement with national governments, parliaments and activists to promote the adoption and application of effective laws against FGM at the national level; (2) at the United Nations, working directly with the missions of affected countries (African and others), in order to generate wide political support for a Resolution that bans FGM; and (3) in Italy, to re-launch and support political mobilization at the national level and to give support, visibility and inspiration to the commitment that the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dedicated throughout the years to this issue.
The campaign saw its successful culmination with the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly, on 20 December 2012, of the historic resolution calling for a worldwide ban on female genital mutilation (A/RES/67/146). Its adoption reflects universal agreement that female genital mutilation constitutes a violation of human rights, which all countries of the world should address and prevent through “all necessary measures, including enacting and enforcing legislation to prohibit FGM and to protect women and girls from this form of violence, and to end impunity”.
Following this landmark step, NPWJ continues to work with women’s rights activists across the world to target this and other forms of violence against women that tend to be addressed as cultural issues, rather than as violations of universal human rights. In addition to FGM, these include forced and child marriage, marital rape, sex work, denial of reproductive rights and other violations that are manifestations of women’s subordinate status.