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Changing attitudes in Guinea-Bissau

Plan International and the European Commission started working together to eliminate FGM in Guinea-Bissau almost four years ago. This month, as we celebrated the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, we witness concrete results on the ground.

The lives of hundreds of girls and women from Bidjini community in Guinea Bissau will be safeguarded after Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was publically declared abandoned during celebrations to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM.

The announcement was confirmation of the community’s willingness to abandon a harmful practice that affects up to 95% of girls and women aged 15-49 years in Bafata region. “Bidjini is the largest Quranic center in Guinea-Bissau because we are descendants of the Timbuktu Quranic center of the Mali Empire. Before we practiced FGM for religious reasons, but, thanks to training we are now aware that it is not the prescription of Islam”, explains Mumini Baio, chief of Bidjini community.

Before we practiced FGM for religious reasons, but thanks to training we are now aware that it is not the prescription of Islam

As a result of work undertaken by Plan International and partners, Bidjini is the third community to announce an end to FGM after Djaima and Saocunda in Gabu region. Two other communities in Bafata region have also expressed their willingness to stop practicing FGM. Since June 2012, Plan International Guinea-Bissau has been collaborating with 16 communities in Bafata and Gabu regions to raise awareness and promote open dialogue sessions in order to increase the knowledge and understanding of villagers about harmful effects of FGM.

Plan International has established two medical and psychological counselling centers for survivors of FGM in Bafata and Gabu in order to help girls and women who have suffered health problems caused by being cut. “In two years, 34 girls and women have received treatment for complications resulting from FGM”, says Allassane Drabo, Plan International Guinea-Bissau’s Country Director.

This and other FGM prevention activities are being carried out through the project Community Action to Fight Female Genital Mutilation (COMBAT), developed by Plan International in partnership with the National Committee for the Abandonment of Harmful Practices, the National Network to Combat Children and Gender-Based Violence, and that is funded by the European Commission