On September 26th 2017, the CHANGE Champions/Agents met with about 30 members of the European Parliament in Brussels and other stakeholders. The goal was to advocate the support for survivors and the protection of young girls. Therefore, the representatives engaged in dialogue with the politicians, sharing their experiences and challenges from the grassroot levels. In addition, political demands were made and advice was given on how to further tackle FGM.
The meeting was hosted by MEPs Julie Ward (S&D) & Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP). The project coordinator Charlotte Weil started with a general presentation of the CHANGE Plus project. Afterwards, representatives of the project consortium and local communities presented their experiences and so far outcomes of the project. Thus, an extract of „Amina“, an awareness-raising video developed, written and played by CHANGE Champions in Hamburg about the situation of FGM survivors in Germany, was presented.
To keep inspiring future alterations to end FGM the advocates have given recommendations for ways to move forward, as well as demanded further support of politicians and public institutions. As a main aspect, they emphasised prevention and empowerment strategies. In order to bring a positive long-lasting behavioural change, longer periods of funding are needed. CHANGE Agents should be recognised in their role as key figures, who are building bridges between different societies and therefore should receive adequate incomes. Additionally, communities´ involvements need to be supported and further developed to empower their own managing of projects.
Equally important is minimizing the gap between communities and professionals to address FGM in a culturally and gender sensitive way, so those affected are no longer stigmatized. In order to tackle FGM as a global issue, trans-continental and coordinated efforts are needed, as human rights violations and practices do not respect borders. Therefore, the EU needs to consider more flexibility and a cross-border nature of funds.
Compared to most European countries a lot of African nations do not have or do not properly implement or enforce specific laws to end FGM, e.g. Sierra Leone. Therefore, a further demand of the CHANGE Agents/Champions is the EU´s obligation to uphold the condemnation of the FGM practice within these nations.
The politicians and stakeholders participating showed great interest in the concerns and demands of the CHANGE Agents/Champions and thus the meeting ended with a fruitful discussion. Following this, a press conference about the work of the CHANGE Agents/Champions and the meaningful exchange took place.
In the afternoon, a delegation of the representatives met with Monika Ladmanova, Gender Adviser in the Cabinet of the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST), to discuss experiences, future steps and to demand further involvements and actions of the EU.
A parallel session to exchange the experiences between community representatives and other Brussels based NGOs was hold to elaborate common strategies. This acted as a platform to find innovative solutions to achieve the common goal of putting an end to the practice of FGM.
With this important lobbying effort in the European Parliament the CHANGE Plus consortium and the community representatives are getting one step closer towards the abandonment of FGM in Europe and beyond.
Photo: © End FGM