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Tireless work to end Gender Based Violence and Female Genital Mutilation in Mauritania

The Association Mauritanienne pour la Promotion de la Famille (AMPF) is a member association of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Learn more about AMPF's work in addressing the harm...

By Oriane Huchon (WISH Programme Officer) and Renee Sewe (WISH2ACTION Communications Advisor)

According to WHO more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where it is practiced. FGM is still highly prevalent across Mauritania: in 2021, 64% of girls and women aged 15-49 years have undergone FGM (in some regions, FGM prevalence is as high as 93%). Ending FGM and gender-based violence (GBV) still faces strong conservative barriers.

The Association Mauritanienne pour la Promotion de la Famille (AMPF) is a member association of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Since its foundation in 1988, AMPF has focused on sensitizing the general population and the country’s political and religious leaders to the personal, health, and economic benefits of family planning and promoting and providing voluntary sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.

AMPF is one of the strongest advocates against gender-based violence (GBV) and female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mauritania.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The practice has no health benefits for girls and women.

FGM can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

“Our priority is to create an enabling environment for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Mauritania by the adoption of a Law Against Violence Against Women and Girls and the enactment of a Law Against FGM “. said Yacoub Ebnou, WISH Coordinator

Over the years, AMPF has made strides through advocacy and policy dialogue, such as the enactment of the Reproductive Health Act, a religious judgment (fatwa) outlawing FGM, and other harmful practices in 2016. But despite the Act, FGM is still highly prevalent across the country.

Since 2019, with the support of the WISH Programme, AMPF has strengthened its advocacy work for the promotion of SRHR, the end of GBV, and FGM. AMPF created a network of supportive parliamentarians and journalists called “champions”. It has also strengthened the coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in this space. The WISH programme has provided a new framework for AMPF's advocacy work. The programme’s reporting requirements have propelled AMPF to greater stakeholder engagement, better recording of activities and progress, and therefore improvement in the monitoring and evaluation of their efforts, resulting in an overall improvement in reaching goals.

“The WISH program has been very vital in the way we advocate and engage in national efforts. It has enabled us to stay up to date on national developments, and to participate in all the meetings with key stakeholders who are moving the reproductive health agenda forward.” said Yacoub Ebnou, WISH Coordinator

A breakthrough

After years of advocacy and thanks to the support of the WISH programme, on 6th May 2020, the Mauritanian Council of Ministers approved a draft legislation to prevent gender-based violence. This legislation will create a legal framework to prevent violence against women and girls, as well as legal procedures to protect victims, compensate them for harm and punish perpetrators. It will also help to address harmful social and cultural norms that contribute to discrimination and violence against women and girls and support further research and evidence to support the development of policy principles in this area. Following approval by the Council, the legislation must now be reviewed and approved by Members of Parliament.

The Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme is the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) largest Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) delivery programme.

The programme offers quality integrated and inclusive family planning and sexual and reproductive health services with a focus on marginalized and hard-to-reach populations: the poor, youth under 20 and persons with disabilities.

There are two ‘Lots’ implemented through different consortium structures

IPPF leads Lot 2 (WISH2ACTION) and is a partner in WISH Lot 1 within a consortium led by Marie Stopes International in three countries in the current phase through its Member Associations (MAs): Chad and DRC, Mauritania

AMPF has intensified its efforts to support the legislation to be approved by a conservative Parliament. AMPF has mobilised its network of champions, held meetings with stakeholders and religious leaders, multiplied press briefings, increased training and sensitisation for service providers and the general public, etc. Together with other organisations, the legislation is being reworded to be acceptable for Islamic parliamentarians. AMPF is optimistic that the law will be passed in early 2023.

These efforts as well as those of other stakeholders have led to another breakthrough: the collection of information on gender-based violence was added to the national information system, which means that health centres and clinics will now be able to record the cases of GBV they receive in the national statistics so that GBV is not a hidden part of society and data can inform public health efforts.

Most notably, in October 2021 AMPF organised a conference to inaugurate the first international centre for the eradication of female circumcision, the "Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation", under the patronage of the Minister of Health of Mauritania and in partnership with the IPPF Arab World Region Office and with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The main goal of the centre is to provide an ideal model for empowering IPPF member associations and other partners, particularly those in countries that still practice FGM.

What is the next step?

There has been significant progress and milestones met in the fight to end FGM and GBV in Mauritania, however, there is still a long journey to go. AMPF is hopeful that the Law Against Violence Against Women and Girls will be adopted by the end of 2022 or in early 2023. This is half the battle but there is more ahead as it will still take time for it to be enforced nationally. On the other hand, there is still a strong need for the enactment of a law penalising FGM. To end FGM, the legislation must be accompanied by continued long term efforts to shift harmful gender norms that underpin FGM, to prevent the practice from going underground or becoming increasingly medicalised. WISH has committed to this work, but all stakeholders must work collaboratively to ensure that women and girls in Mauritania are protected and are not left behind.

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