Giving women back their rights - and their dignity
Naana Otoo-Oyortey MBE, is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD), the lead agency working in the UK to end female genital mutilation (FGM). As a social activist and women’s rights defender, Naana is passionate about building young women’s leadership and voice, and giving them access to tools to research their situation and develop their skills as change agents. Although born in Ghana and now resident in UK, she works globally to promote dignity and rights of African women and girls. She is one of the pioneers to break the silence on child marriage and helped place this human rights abuse on the international global development agenda. Naana continues to mentor young women in the Diaspora to support and end to harmful traditional practices and serves on the board of a number of charities in the UK and in Africa.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons". It is estimated that approximately 100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide and each year, a further 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of the practice in Africa alone. Most of them live in African countries, a few in the Middle East and Asian countries, and increasingly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada. More information on FGM accessed at: http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/key-issues/fgm
The Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD) is an African Diaspora women-led campaign and support non for profit organisation. FORWARD strives to advance and safeguard the sexual and reproductive health and rights of African girls and women globally, particularly focusing on female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and obstetrics. FORWARD's vision is that women and girls live in dignity are healthy, have choices and equal opportunities. FORWARD’s research and programme work centres on generating evidence to inform policy and practice; promoting voice and skills of women and girls and strengthening education, learning and capacity. Its website may be accessed at: http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/
The UK assumed the chairmanship of the Council of Europe on 7 November 2011, pledging to focus on the promotion and protection of human rights. As such, the UK might be expected to take the lead by signing and ratifying the Convention – it has not yet signed the Convention (preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence). Naana says: “The UK has a unique opportunity to continue its strong record on human rights, and to take the lead in ensuring that the Convention comes into force.”
On the occasion of the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November 2011), FORWARD, Amnesty International and the TUC urged the UK, the European Union (EU) as well as all other members of the Council of Europe to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Amnesty International has expressed the view that it is unacceptable that every day one in five women in Europe suffers violence. It is estimated that the annual cost of violence against women for each and every one of the 47 countries in the Council of Europe could be as high as €34 billion. For each man, woman and child in a Council of Europe country, the cost could be as high as €555 per annum. This is a huge financial burden for each country.
Currently, only 17 countries have signed up to this Convention, and the UK is not one of them. The total number of signatures not followed by ratifications is also 17, which means none of these have taken any further steps.
FORWARD has been at the forefront of training professionals and voluntary and community organisations in the UK on the issue of FGM and Child Protection. It has developed comprehensive resources, and information in the form of Information Packs and a Factsheet on FGM.