In Sudan: Integrating FGM at the Governmental and Institutional Level
The National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) is a platform bringing together representatives of several Sudanese government ministries. Created in 1991 as a national mechanism concerned with the planning and coordination of all child-related action in Sudan and to enforce the international and regional child conventions ratified by Sudan (topped by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)), it ensures, since 2014, that the issue of FGM is brought to the agendas and integrated in the programs of all the represented ministries, through the Coordination Mechanism of the Abandonment of FGM in Sudan.
Why was the coordination mechanism established?
At some point, NCCW and its partners realized that their efforts in FGM eradication were insufficient. They soon realized that this was due to protesting from specific groups against the movement and a lack of coordination between the partners which caused a scattering of efforts. The council then got to work to establish the mechanism.
Established in 2014 at a national level (NTF), it presently has 40 members. These members were carefully selected from different cross-cutting ministries that could join forces with the NCCW to bring about the abandonment of FGM. After the success of NTF, in 2015 we established a STF (state level) in all 18 states of Sudan. In 2016, we started establishing LTFs (local level). These task forces helped NCCW to mainstream our efforts in ending FGM.
What has worked? Main successful points
The NCCW developed an administrative order-in-council that ensures that the chairperson is the Secretary General of the NCCW, and the vice-chairperson is a member of the Ministry of Health, in order to ensure the management of the mechanism.
The other members were selected from various ministries – social security, justice, guidance, media, education, culture and interior. The working group also includes independent expert members, parliamentarians, university professors and members of the National Centre of Curriculum and Assessment, and members of UN agencies and international NGOs (who fund and assist them in developing their projects).
The LTFs are composed of members of local communities. They therefore have a completely different board of directors made up of mayors, sheikhs, leaders and midwives headed by the local chief.
- One of the reasons for the success of this mechanism is that all members are decision-makers within their respective ministries and therefore have a say in changing the policies of their ministries. This allows FGM to be mainstreamed in different sectors until it is abandoned.
- The mechanism has also worked well through quarterly meetings at which both FGM mainstreaming projects and the achievements of each ministry are discussed and the responsibilities of each sector are assigned.
- A very important factor in this mechanism is that the NCCW is consulted on all decisions, including the adoption of new methods, strategies and policies, related to the abandonment of FGM, before they are taken. Of course, the NCCW also consults the Board of Directors before any decision is taken. For example, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism is presented to the Board before it is sent to the Human Rights Council.
What has not worked? Challenges faced
The main challenge we face is the mentality of the members in some sectors. Instead of participating in the mechanism, they believe it is better for them to work independently and this delays the mainstreaming of FGM abandonment.
Also, the Ministry of Health believes that FGM is solely a health issue that should not be dealt with by other sectors.
To this day, some groups are still against FGM abandonment, especially midwives as they make an income from the illegal practice of FGM. These midwives commonly fight against the mechanism.
Another challenge they face isthe neglect of protection network groups. These groups are volunteers who work with communities and grassroots organisations to raise awareness about many negative practices such as VAC, HIV/AIDS, MR, RH and of course FGM.
The possible solutions to overcome the challenges
- They have had ice-breaking sessions with the MoH to make sure that it is on the same page as NCCW. The MoH then became the vice president of the mechanism thanks to an administrative decree.
- Another problem is the protesting of midwives. They nowhave a member of the National Midwives Committee as a representative of Sudanese midwives on the board of the mechanism.They have been working with these midwives to inform them of the danger of practicing FGM and engaging them in small projects so they can still earn an income.
- They are planning on working alongside network protection groups in the future as they are an important means of raising awareness in various sectors.
- Faced with the problem of the duplication of research related to FGM, they have established a Research Advisory Group made up by the members of the NTF, which reviews all research on FGM before publication.
- Their vision for 2019 is to introduce the topic of FGM into primary school curricula as a first step, and then into the curricula of medical schools. They are currently working on this as one of the members of the mechanism is from the National Center of Curriculum and Assessment.
What they suggest to do
It would be useful to have the ministry of cooperation involved, as it is responsible for all UN agencies and their work in Sudan. Another crucial ministry is the ministry of foreign affairs because with its help, the members of the mechanism could take part in regional and international conferences and this would further help the mainstreaming of FGM abandonment as it would increase the capacity for discussion and the exchange of ideas.
The NCCW is a good example of the kind inter-ministerial commitment needed to promote the abandonment of FGM. The expansion of the platform is underway, with the inclusion of the Ministry of Cooperation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation” is part of the “Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM” project, supported by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM”.
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.
The views expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UNFPA, UNICEF or any other agency or organization.
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