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Sierra Leone’s First Lady explains why she won’t campaign against FGM practices

New York – Sierra Leone’s first lady, Madam Fatima Maada Bio, has defended her conclusions not to campaign against the practices of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone, describing it as “a controversial subject that I’m trying to really remove myself from.”

Madam Maada Bio, regarded as an ardent advocate for children and women’s rights including opposition to early marriage and rape, said that as a “circumcised woman” herself, she has not seen enough evidence to campaign on the subject.

“It’s not like I am not passionate about it, it’s just that I don’t know much about it,” she told BBC Focus on Africa during an interview.

The Sierra Leonean First Lady said she was circumcised when she was a child and does not know what life is like otherwise.

She said that neither of her two daughters are circumcised, not because she does not believe in the practice, but because they are scared of injections and pain.

Madam Maada Bio’s statements regarding the FGM is not going down well with advocacy groups against the practice.  Many termed her remarks as “unfortunate and sad.”

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the Desert Flower Foundation, Female Genital Mutilation happens primarily in Africa, in particular in North-Eastern, Eastern and Western Africa. It also takes place in the Middle East, in South-East Asia – and also among immigrants in Europe.

According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) 200 million women are affected by FGM worldwide. In Europe, the number of mutilated women or girls and women threatened by FGM amounts up to 1 000 000.

First Lady Fatima Maada Bio’s recent statements and interview have elevated further discussions and focus toward FGM practices internationally, with advocates vowing to push for the protection of women and girls against such practices.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.

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