Friday, 23 October 2009

Quick response to Avaaz on FGM - posted on Facebook

For up to date information, research and news on FGM, please visit - and if you care about this issue, please consider getting involved in some form.

Personally, I would love Avaaz to campaign on this issue because there needs to be much more awareness about it, and it is only through education and advocacy that we will begin to get a real shift in this complex practice. If Avaaz's followers chose to make this an issue, then it could be taken much more seriously around the world.

That's the power of the network today - I'm a fan and supporter of Avaaz - and I think there's an interesting debate about whether they respond to their members issues or set their own agenda.... Read More

Ricken is right to an extent, in the original quote - FGM currently would come way down people's priority lists. It's just too taboo and difficult to touch.

However, if Avaaz chose to campaign on FGM, the awareness raised would be remarkable - and then this issue might get the level of funding needed (which, let's face it comes from the West) to make an impact at any serious level. Meanwhile, those 3 million girls a year keep on getting cut.

A multi-level approach is needed - at a community level to explain the health impacts, at a national level to ensure that countries see this as illegal and also adopt enforcement, at a Pan-African level (altho it happens in Indonesia, and other parts of the world too) and at an international/global level to ensure that agencies and others involved have a coherent, funded plan to really meet the UN stated aim of "eradicating FGM within this generation."

At the moment we are woefully far from this.

The other main issue is that this practice predates both Christianity and Islam - it is a question of female control. It ensures women's chastity and fidelity in one brutal stroke. Projects that work towards female empowerment do make a different in the debate. UNICEF research also shows that when whole villages adopt a shift away from FGM (meaning no one woman is penalised by not being allowed to marry if she is uncut) then change really can happen.

This practice is a human rights violation, a child rights violation and it denies girls their own opportunity to reach their potential.

We should all do anything we can to help shift this debate. Please!

Here is Avaaz's orignial response:

Thanks to all for comments on female genital mutilation - there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about Avaaz's position.

Avaaz is a member-driven organization - we use polls of our membership to set our priorities and decide our course. There are so many vital issues in the world today, and FGM is certainly one of them, but it's just impossible to campaign on all of them. Unlike traditional NGOs where staff, board and funders decide priorities, our members make the difficult and sometimes painful decisions about which campaigns our community focuses on. It's really important to our democratic model of campaigning that it's our membership as a whole, and not any small group of members or staff, that decides what we work on.

Our community is passionate about human rights and women's rights. Almost half of our campaigns have been human rights-related campaigns, including for example the prevention of mass rape in the Congo and accountability for rape and genocide in Sudan. We've also focused heavily on human rights in countries like Zimbabwe, Tibet and Burma. But so far, Avaaz members have not chosen FGM as one of our most important priorities.

We wish the WHOA FGM campaign all the best in educating people about this serious issue, and hope we can join the cause when Avaaz members choose to. We're grateful to everyone who has posted civil and respectful comments, but we're very concerned that one of your members is sending abusive and threatening messages to Avaaz staff on personal accounts - please let's have a mature and respectful discussion and not threaten and demonize people whose job it is to serve the Avaaz community by working hard on many good causes.

The Avaaz Team

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