The world at my doorstep

Before going out to explore the world, we had already decided as a team on women’s human rights to invite the world to us. So after my lengthy travels, this week I found myself at home (well in my office) to discuss the methodologies that we have been working with them over the past years. We wanted an opportunity to review and strategise to make sure that the work of our organisation (as it is closing down, due to lack of funding) will continue.

It has been an inspiring and challenging experience as we invited over 35 different partners (a logistic nightmare for our wonderful interns Anne & Loraine, dealing even with a very angry Dutch Embassy in Senegal, accusing us of falsifying our director’s signature on the visa letter), all working in other countries with different contexts. Moreover, they are all incredibly busy and have so many obligations in their own countries (ranging from Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe to Sierra Leone, Albania, the UK, China and more…) that their willingness to make time in itself is motivating.

We talked a lot about the challenges around the work and there are many things that could still be improved. Fortunately there were also many positive developments. And sometimes you just have to celebrate your successes. One of the things that I didn’t know, but found out from our Kenyan partner, was that they have been carrying on with work on female genital mutilation that we started last year. I went there actually to test a new workshop format to do assessment of the human rights situation. The topic was female genital mutilation of women above 18. There is a law in Kenya that should protect children under 18, but there was nothing in place for women above 18. Intermarriage between different communities is happening more and more. What happens is that a woman from one community who marries into a community that only considers cut woman as real woman, will be cut without her permission after her delivery of a first child. This is even performed in public State hospitals under supervision of doctors.

The workshop in Kenya at the time was for me (as it was really a try out), and for the participants quite a challenge (although the view was wonderful, I still remember seeing giraffes pass by in the distance), but we got quite a reasonable analysis. It was decided that they would take it to their National Coordinator on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting to discuss. After that it was silent – advocacy can take a while, and the organisation has many issues they work on. But then coming to the meeting here, MaryF from FIDA Kenya – whom I had worked closely with in the workshop – informed me that they have now drafted a Bill to protect women above 18 from female genital mutilation in cooperation with the Kenyan Women Parliamentarian Association. The bill still has to be accepted, but the mere fact that after only a year a whole bill is drafted is quite an achievement. And to realise that your work has actually contributed to this, is just an amazing experience.

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