(by Valentina Bianco)
ROME, JANUARY 30 – “Tackling the issue of female genital mutilation is not about imparting lessons to one another but rather, about a process. Differences must not undermine us, nor should we allow stereotypes to divide us”. This is the message Emma Bonino reiterates in her address at the Conference on the worldwide ban of female genital mutilation (FGM) that is taking place today and tomorrow at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized by the NGO “No Peace without Justice” (NPWJ), the Inter-African Committee (IAC) and their partners, in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development.
Bonino, a long time politician who served in numerous capacities, including the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, founded NPWJ in 1993 and has always shown unyielding commitment to humanitarian issues and women’s rights. She explains that the eradication of FGM “is not a vision that rich countries wish to impose on poor ones, but there are clear-cut boundaries that cannot be crossed. We have the utmost respect for other cultures but we must defeat practices that are blatantly harmful”.
She recalls that Italy has been playing an active role over the years: “In 2001 we joined this battle and Italy, with its embassies across Africa, from Nairobi to Dakar to Ouagadougou, has never backed away from a challenge. Now, with the opening of two new embassies, in Conakry, Guinea and Niamey, Niger, our activities in safeguarding and promoting the rights of the individual will continue to forge ahead”.
In Niamey, the local government is indicating a strong political will to eliminate the plight of FGM. In her address, First lady of Niger, Lalla Malika Issoufou, recalled that in 2012 the practice of FGM in her country has declined to 2%, with significant differences among ethnic groups. “We are not far from zero-tolerance, but the road ahead is a long one”, she warned. “We are here to launch an appeal to all our partners gathered here today so that they may help us attain zero-tolerance” she concluded, before thanking the Italian government for its contributions in security and migration issues and its support in “ fighting against gender inequality and the barbaric practice of FGM”. (@OnuItalia)