LWF Chad Works with Women to Stop Female Genital Mutilation
MARO, Chad/GENEVA, 19 June 2012 (LWI) – Sitting in the heat of the midday sun in the small town of Maro, southern Chad, Suzane Dangel, a refugee from the Central African Republic, explains how The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has helped changed her life.
Dangel, 60, has been living in the Moula refugee camp close to the border between Chad and the Central African Republic since it was established in 2008. The camp hosts more than 5,800 refugees from the Central African Republic.
The LWF Chad program manages the camp, working closely with vulnerable women.
Dangel, who had worked as a female circumciser in her home country, first continued to practice the tradition at Moula. Today, the LWF Department for World Service (DWS) program in Chad provides new opportunities for women who previously engaged in this practice.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice that has been around for more than 2,000 years. It involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls of 10 years of age and older have undergone FGM, according to the World Health Organization.
“Last year I circumcised two teenage girls in the camp. It’s our tradition and it brings me income. The police arrested and imprisoned me for six days because this practice is illegal in Chad,” Dangel said.
LWF Chad has been organizing training workshops and activities on health issues and sexual awareness in order to empower women in the camp. Because of this support, the women can sell handicrafts and food products in the local market. The LWF also provides goats for the women and their families to improve their livelihoods.
“I will never again circumcise a girl, because now I understand the severe health problems that it’s causing for women, such as infections and bleeding problems. This has been a tradition in our culture for decades and brought an income for my family. It was hard to stop that,” Dangel explained.
In communities where FGM is practiced, it is widely believed that a woman cannot get married if she has not undergone the operation, and that a girl will not become a woman without going through the procedure. However, Dangel said she is now determined not to return to carrying out the practice.
“I’m very grateful for the help and support that I have received from the LWF. I hope I never have to practice again my old profession,” she added.
LWF/DWS began working with Central African refugees in the south of the country in 2008. The current activities emphasize self-sufficiency and increased food production in host communities. At the Moula camp, the LWF is responsible for agriculture, education and psycho-social assistance, and handles the camp’s monthly food distribution. (497 words)
(Written for LWI by Anna Palmén, in Maro, Chad)