Zonta Club of Alessandria supports Relay for Women, hosts FGM workshop at Geneva UN Palace

During the 16 Days of Activism, the Zonta Club of Alessandria, Italy, endorsed the Maana’s model in Ayuub village (Somalia)  to put an end to infibulation, a severe form of female genital mutilation.

The Zonta club and the Stella Bianca Laura Garavelli Association partnered for the Relay for Women. Participants started in Alessandria on 26 November and arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, on 1 December.

Throughout those six days, Zonta and Stella Bianca advocated people on this kind of violence against women to explain that infibulation is not far away from Italian or European people. In Italy, as well as in Germany or in the United Kingdom,  many survivors arrive because parents that run away from their village in Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, etc. to save their daughters from being cut.

After running 180 km (about 112 miles), the Relay for Women arrived in Aosta Valley and involved the Zonta Club of Aosta in a public presentation.  Then runners ran for another 200 km (124 miles), and the Relay for Women arrived in Geneva. It was the first time a relay arrived in front of a United Nations Palace.


Geneva coordinator for the Zonta International United Nations Committee, Simone Ovart, organized and moderated a workshop at the UN Palace. The Zonta Club of Alessandria introduced the issue, and 2014-2016 International Director Nadia Biancato talked about “Improving women’s health and dignity together.”

Biancato said:

“While meeting people, local authorities and journalists we explain that we have to understand that infibulation is a crime against the humanity, and we cannot close our doors in front of refugees that run away not only from famine or war but even from a tribal tradition that has terrible consequence along the life of its victims. In Italy, law n.7, 9.1.2006 fixes how to prevent, fight and prosecute female genital mutilation, defined “a human rights violation against women’s and girls’ health.

“Our Region, Piemonte, has a program to implement this law, and money to do that.  Victims of mutilation need help, also psychological, to restart a better life. But we must pay attention to avoid that these crimes will be committed in secret in our Country, where immigrants are more and more numerous. We can inform, we have to educate, take every chance to talk about violence against women and mutilation to people, students, healthcare professionals, policemen, lawyers. We must say that  female genital mutilation is one of the worst violence against women,  because is done against young children who have no defense. Let’s talk about it, and we all will better understand the problem, and will be more alert about.

“Nowadays is no more acceptable that children 4-5-9 years old, who will be the women of tomorrow, are abused with this kind of violence by other women for ‘traditional reason.’ No one person, organization, agency or community can eliminate violence against women and girls on their own; we must work together to educate our whole population about what can be done to prevent such a violence, support victims/survivors and their families, and increase support for agencies providing services to those community members.”

A better life without infibulation is possible in Africa. Prof. Luigi Sartore, founder of Associazione Stella Bianca Laura Garavelli, explained how: “Somalia  has been devastated by  25 years tribal conflicts and by the effects of the imposing presence of the Islamic fundamentalism. After the war, Maana Suldaan Abdurahman Ali Issue, daughter of the last Sultan of Merka, offered a shelter for widows and orphans escaping from war in the Ayuub village that become the first ‘infibulation free village’ in Somalia.

“She educated people at all level and she  introduced an alternative ritual. She persuaded religious leaders, thanks to her credibility. But the most important obstacle to this alternative rite was, of course, older women as they were custodians of the local tradition. The new ritual eliminated the trauma, while preserving the cultural path of the girls.After passing the sting the girls legs were tied together with ropes, in order to mimic the real infibulation, so that when the girls returned at hoe, their grandmothers could continue to believe that thing were done in ‘an orthodox’ way.

“The religious leaders persuaded people that infibulation should be banned. The health care team does not practice a real cut but a small puncture at clitoral level in order to release only a few drops of blood with a sterile needle or a blood sampling needle (lancet). Maana also intervened on age, involving not girls of 3-4 years but 7. If once the ritual was with the deafening sound of drums to cover the screams of the child, the new ceremony is accompanied by singing, dancing, and the delivery of sweets and chothers as a gift.

“Education is always the key.”

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