208697 Engaging Religious Leaders to Strengthen the Advocacy and Policy Response to Female Genital Cutting in Mali

Monday, November 9, 2009: 9:42 AM

Modibo Maiga , Futures Group International, Washington, DC
Daouda Toure , Futures Group International, Futures Group International, Washington, DC
Myra Betron , Futures Group International, Futures Group International, Washington, DC
Margot Fahnestock , Futures Group International, Futures Group International, Washington, DC
Purpose: Women and girls who have undergone female genital cutting (FGC) are significantly more likely than those who have not to experience postpartum hemorrhage, low birthweight babies, or early neonatal death. In Mali, the practice of FGC is a complicated societal phenomenon. In response, from August June 2009, the USAID | Health Policy Initiative worked with local partners in the government, civil society, religious, health, and social sectors in Mali to identify barriers to addressing FGC.

Methods: Key strategies included: (1) promoting multisectoral collaboration (among civil society, government and religious) to design and validate advocacy tools that highlight FGC's halth and human rights issues as well as demystify the religious arguments that support FGC; (2) supporting advocacy efforts led by religious leaders; and (3) targeting government officials, including Parliamentarians, to improve the policy environment for abandoning FGC practices.

Results/Lessons Learned: HPI worked with 50-60 Islamic leaders in Mali to develop an advocacy presentation that could be adapted for multiple purposes, but also presented to members of Mali's Parliament. The collaborating religious leaders then used the advocacy tool to target members of Mali's Parliament, strengthening the policy environment to eliminate FGC. Critical to the success of this approach was the process of engaging Islamic religious leaders as targets of the advocacy, leaders in the design of advocacy tools and as trained advocates who can influence national policymakers.

Conclusions/Recommendations: It is possible to successfully engage religious leaders in advocacy against FGC with guidance from demonstrated policy champions and inclusion of religious leaders' direct involvement in advocacy efforts.

Learning Objectives:
Describe a process and lessons learned for engaging stakeholders from various government sectors, civil society and, in particular, religious leaders as part of an advocacy campaign against female genital cutting (FGC) in Mali. Describe the important role of religious leaders in successful advocacy and government leadership against FGC. Present an advocacy tool that can be adapted for use with religious leaders in other countries seeking to discourage the practice of FGC.

Keywords: Female Genital Mutilation, Faith Community

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted research and policy analysis on violence against women, public health and women's rights in the developing world for the past 7 years. I was also heavily involved as the coordinator and technical advisor of the advocacy and policy work on female genital cutting in Mali, to be presented. In the past, I have organized learning events on gender and development and reproductive health for staff of the World Bank. Most recently, I have organized presentations at the International AIDS Conference 2008 and the National Health and Domestic Violence Conference 2009.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.