INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION Developing a political, legal and social environment to implement the Maputo Protocol

Overview report - Nairobi, 16-18 September 2004

The Kenyan Government and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) held a three-day conference in Nairobi on Female Genital Mutilation in view of developing a political, legal and social environment for implementing the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The conference was organised by the Government of Kenya and NPWJ in partnership with the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), with the technical support of AIDOS (Italian Association for Women in Development) and RAINBO (Research, Action and Information Network for the Bodily Integrity of Women) with the support of CIDA-GESP and UNICEF together with the Italian Cooperation, the Norwegian Government, UNIFEM jointly with the Swedish Government, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and GTZ, as well as the political support of the European Union.
The conference formed an integral part of the Stop FGM! campaign conducted by NPWJ/AIDOS in collaboration with various African organisations, including AMWIK, for the eradication of FGM. It was also aimed at promoting the ratification of the Maputo Protocol as an instrument for the abandonment of the practice. The Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which in Article 5 stipulates that FGM should be prohibited and condemned, was adopted by the 53 Heads of State of the African Union on 11 July 2003. It requires ratification by 15 States Parties of the African Union in order for it to enter into force. To date, only four States have formally ratified; ratification processes are currently underway in other countries, including Kenya. Ratification of the Protocol by as many countries as possible would be a considerable step forward not only for the fight against FGM, but also for women's rights and gender issues in general.
The conference, which took place from 16 to 18 September 2004 at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) of Nairobi, saw the participation of high-level dignitaries and representatives of civil society from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen. In addition, the conference was also attended by representatives from other international organisations, including the African Union, UNICEF, UNDP, RAINBO, UNPO and the European Network against Traditional Practices.
The Vice-President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Arthur Moody Awori, taking the floor on behalf of H.E. President Kibaki, opened the conference, which was chaired by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hon. Linah Jebii Kilimo, and the Hon. Emma Bonino, Member of the European Parliament and founder of No Peace Without Justice. Other international guests who took the floor during the opening ceremony included Mrs. Moushira Khattab, Ambassador and Member of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (Egypt) also on behalf of the Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak; Hon. Mariam Lamizana, Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Burkina Faso); Hon. Zoe Bakoko Bakoru, Minister of Gender, Women and Social Services (Uganda); Hon. Askalu Menkerios, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs (Eritrea); Amna Abdel Rahman Hassan, Vice-President of the Inter African Committee; and Waris Dirie, the famous Somali supermodel and Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA.
At the national level, the conference involved affected persons, former circumcisers, doctors, teachers, judges, representatives from all levels of government (both provincial and national), parliamentarians and representatives of civil society, NGOs, cultural and religious community leaders and the media from across the country. The participation of representatives from the local communities was an integral aspect of the conference that maximised the effective distribution of the message throughout Kenya.
The conference was conducted in plenary as well as in thematic working sessions, to enable maximum participation and in-depth discussions of the complex issues involved in the fight against FGM.
The first Thematic Session - After the Cairo declaration: develop a legal and political environment for the eradication of FGM" focused on the ratification process of the Maputo Protocol, with the Kenyan Government spearheading the process, and on the importance of international conventions as an instrument against FGM. The discussion also focused on how to monitor the Protocol's application in relevant national legislation.
The second Thematic Session - Breaking the Myth: the role of communities, family, school and the media in transforming social conventions and promoting FGM abandonment - was attended by representatives of the local communities, teachers, journalists and religious activists for the promotion of the abandonment of FGM. The debate focused on appropriate education strategies for developing awareness that FGM is a violation of human rights, and on how members of different religious communities mainly the Muslim and Catholic communities consider this practice.
The third Thematic Session FGM as an issue of women's rights, gender and child protection: medicalisation as an impediment to the eradication of FGM - was focused on four main issues, which formed the basis for a highly participated debate: FGM as a women's right issue; FGM as a gender issue; FGM as a child protection issue; medicalization as an impediment to the eradication of FGM. Participants concluded the session with some recommendations that have been included in the final declaration.
The conference concluded with the unanimous adoption of the Nairobi Declaration, with which the regional delegations present made the following recommendations, among many others:

  • all Afro-Arab States, as well as other States concerned with the practice of female genital mutilation, should implement the Cairo Declaration in an integrated manner;
  • Member States of the African Union should implement the provisions of the Maputo Protocol on FGM in their domestic legislation;
  • Arab countries who are not members of the African Union should call upon the Arab League to include harmful practices in the Arab Charter for Human Rights as a regional mechanism to protect the human rights of women and girls;
  • comprehensive legislation prohibiting FGM must be enacted;
  • the use of law should be one component of a multi-disciplinary approach to stopping the practice of FGM;
  • Governments and international actors should provide political support and, where possible, financial resources to empower NGOs in their struggle to stop FGM;
  • States affected by FGM should formulate a national plan of action for the eradication of FGM with time-bound objectives; and
  • the African Union should assign to the African Commission on the Rights of the Child and other relevant bodies the responsibility to monitor implementation of the commitment by States Parties of the abandonment and eradication of FGM.
    Closing the conference, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Chiaru Ali Mwakwere, reiterated that Kenya will ratify the Maputo Protocol and added his commitment to make the issue part of Kenya's bilateral and multilateral priorities with other African countries
    Pre-conference activities
    During the period leading up to the conference, two side activities aimed at increasing the awareness of judicial officers and the media on FGM were held. AMWIK was the project leader and the administrator of the two side conferences.
    A one-day training workshop for judicial officers held on 11 September enhanced their understanding of the law relating to FGM in Kenya, particularly that FGM is a violation of the dignity and rights of women and girl children and, furthermore, is a form of violence. To maximise interactions during the workshop, participation was limited to around 30 persons, including judicial officers, Judges, Family Court officials, representatives from informal dispute resolution forums (village tribunals), selected magistrates in the Children's Officers Court system and members of the administration. The workshop covered themes such as the harmful consequences of FGM; FGM and human rights; the law on FGM in Kenya (International, National and Customary Law); enforcement of FGM legislation; and the role of both formal and informal courts.
    A one-day workshop for media organisations took place on 15 September, in order to train 30 Kenyan journalists on reporting on FGM. In particular, the workshop was conducted so as to ensure wider dissemination of information regarding FGM and the problems that it poses, as a form of violence against women and girl children in Kenya. The workshop was also an opportunity to highlight and publicise the Nairobi FGM Conference, in particular in relation to the themes and goals of the conference.
    In addition to the main plenary and thematic working sessions, the conference hosted an NGO exhibition beginning on 16 September, which remained open throughout the duration of the conference. The exhibition was an opportunity for NGOs working on FGM to exhibit their programs, share ideas and strategies with colleagues, distribute material and promote their projects. The exhibition was open to the public.