Regional Conference on the Elimination of FGM Asmara, Eritrea

27 - 28 March 2008

The National Union of Eritrean Women (NEUW) and the international non-governmental organisation ‘No Peace Without Justice’ organised the East Africa Sub-Regional Conference on the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation, which was heldon 27-28 March 2008 in Asmara, Eritrea. The event was intended to provide a forum for various actors, both within Eritrea and from countries of the Region, who have been responsible for the development of policies and strategies aimed at the elimination of the practice. It offered the opportunity for a discussion among regional counterparts on best practices and successes as well as an exchange of information on pitfalls to be avoided. The conference involved actors drawn both from government and civil society organisations from Eritrea and from countries of the Region.
FGM is a near-universal phenomenon in Eritrea and a predominant form of violence against women. The Government of Eritrea’s proclamation of 20 March 2007 (158/2007) clearly places the campaign to put an end to FGM in a legal context. While much work has been done to eradicate the practice over the years, particularly in the context of work empowering women and youth, taboos persist in discussing the issue openly. With a view to considering a legislative approach as the framework for activities aiming at the elimination of FGM, participants exchanged their experiences of shaping effective campaigns, including outreach activities both prior to and after legislation is passed.
The main aim of the conference was to anchor firmly all discussions of FGM in recognition of the practice as a violation of human rights. Representatives of the regional administrative units, called Zobas and sub-Zobas, were able to showcase their activities both in a national context and for foreign participants. Before the Proclamation of 2007, and intensifying after that date, the NUEW has undertaken intensive work throughout various Zobas. The exhaustive work which has been ongoing in particular in Zoba Dobub can provide a model for what can be achieved elsewhere.
Participants were drawn from the relevant ministries, and local and national decision-making bodies. From Eritrea, participants also included representatives of the village councils and sub-Zobas and Zobas who have been involved in discussions of local by-laws prior to the Proclamation, and subsequently have been active in the outreach on national legislation. Foreign participants included government representatives and civil society actors from the Region, from member countries of the East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women as well as from Djibouti.