Approximately 276 female students were kidnapped on 14 April 2014 from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok, Nigeria by the insurgent group, Boko Haram.
Nigeria's armed forces have confirmed Amnesty International's claim that the Nigerian Military had a four hour advance notice of the attack but that their forces were unable to mobilise reinforcements.
The purpose of the rally was to show support for the families of the abducted girls. It is imperative to spread awareness of the atrocious nature of the incident and express the actuality that it is a basic human right to pursue education without fear or interference with certitude.
The Rights Talk: African Women's Voices-FGM and women's leadership was an excellent precursor to Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Lives Symposium. The talk gave voice to African women's issues and rights on FGM and the importance of the role of women's leadership within the community.
It was clear that language is critical in the relm of FGM. For instance, most community members and individuals subjected to FGM prefer the term Female Circumcision. This is because the affected communities see the practice as such. To use the term Genital Mutilation in addition to words such as 'barbaric' to describe the practice is perceived as disrespectful to the communities.
The language is also important when it comes to labelling individuals who have been subjected to Female Circumcision as victims when they actually see themselves as survivors. In fact, during the Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Lives symposium the following day at Grandville Tafe, one of the survivors of female circumcision expressed that she does not see herself as a victim but instead she sees herself as a 'change agent', acting as an advocate against Female Circumcision.
An interesting point made by Mabel Imali, Gender consultant as well as the other speakers is that Female Circumcision is not exclusively an anatomical issue. In order to address or tackle this issue, we must look at power and patriarchy in a social context.
This was a one day conference ‘Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Lives’ as part of the project: “Our Voices: Filling in the Gaps – Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Spokesperson Program” initiated and organised by African Women Australia Inc., in partnership with South Western Sydney Institute of TAFE Granville College.
The conference is the outcome of a six month Human Rights education program that has brought together 14 women from affected communities across Australia to develop leadership and advocacy for social change around FGM.The aims of this program have been to build the capacities of community-based women to dialogue, educate and lead from within as Human Rights advocates and educators; as well as bringing the voices of their communities into the main debate.
The conference included a keynote address delivered by a leading international Human Rights advocate, the screening of short films produced by participants in the program, interactive round table community dialogues and a response from the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.
As seen on
This conference was an opportunity for Human Rights advocates, community educators, government and non government agencies to engage in a constructive dialogue with women who are at the grassroots working on the issue of FGM, Delegates from health, education, legal, community, universities, law enforcement agencies, women, migrant and refugee sectors and other key stakeholders are encouraged to participate. Sessions included medical responses, intergenerational issues, women's health and child protection.
Photographed by Su Garfinkle
(Contact details can be found at the bottom of this page)
Charter of Ethical Practice
This Charter promotes a human rights approach for those working on the issue on FGM/C.*
It is intended to empower women and community members by providing a guide to practice that is underpinned by the human rights principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination,
respect, empowerment, self-determination and inclusion. This Charter has been developed by community women as part of Human Rights course developed by SWSi Institute of TAFE NSW Granville College Social and Community Services Section for African Women Australia Inc. to articulate a basis for applying standards across all sectors.
• Creatively adapt and modify approach in order to work effectively and inclusively with people who have different and diverse cultural identities, values, affiliations, beliefs and customs.
• Understand that the rights of a child are universal and go across cultural considerations. Every child is enti- tled to protection of the law, regardless of her background. Cultural heritage is important, but it does not take precedence over standards of protection and care of children embodied in human rights and in law. Rights cannot be taken away.
• Be respectful of different positions. Some women express pride in circumcision, giving them a sense of identity and belonging. Others consider the practice a negative experience and a traumatic attack on their body. Determine the terms women use. If women find the term ‘mutilation’ offensive and it is used regard- less, it may alienate women. Avoid terms including ‘barbaric’ and ‘brutal’. Use value-neutral terms that in- clude ‘practice’, ‘affected communities’, ‘health implications’.
• Actively and reflectively listen, allow time to see how women feel and respond appropriately. Do not pro- ject feelings of disgust, shock, revulsion, horror, anger or pity. These can cause feelings of humiliation and distress. Women must be provided with culturally sensitive, non-judgmental and respectful care.
• Engage in professional development, cultural learning, supervision, critical reflection to develop competencies. Recognise when personal factors or issues impact on practice and seek support and/or profes- sional development. Identify appropriate support and other networks to refer people when professional ca- pabilities are exceeded.
• Understand and respond appropriately to the sexual health needs of women. Be mindful of women’s social contexts and concerns. Apply holistic model of care.
• Encourage women to go to ante-natal care. Build trust and develop a care plan with women early in preg- nancy and involve appropriate interpreters as necessary. Identify women who have been cut when they first seek pregnancy care. Do this sensitively and non-judgementally. Use sensitive line of questioning.
• Maintain confidentiality and understand the legal limits to confidentiality.
• Invest in and develop community programs to educate and inform all sections of communities, including men, youth and community leaders about legal and health consequences
• Build community capacities to empower women to speak for themselves and to own the issue. Build and strengthen grassroots programs initiated and run by women.
• Girls have different experiences to women. Girls have a right to advocate for themselves in the context of FGM/C. They should be recognised as having independent voices and be empowered through peer educa- tion using human rights education models.
• Practice advocacy that does not drown out the voices of women from affected communities.
* The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines female genital mutilation (FGM) 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. We refer to the practice as FGM/C in response to diverse usage of terms.
• Engage and interact with women in empowering ways.
This Charter is copy written to African Women Australia Inc.
Copyright © African Women Australia
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
+61.(02) 9649 6955
African Women Australia
17 Macquarie Road