UNFPA and Embera Wera - ending female genital mutilation
The first step taken by UN representatives was to approach the indigenous authorities of the coffee-growing region of Risaralda, who authorized their request to work with the Embera-Chami people on the issue. Then they met with the leaders of the nine Embera-Chami reservations in the region and proposed a process of rethinking FGM to reduce mortality rates among girls.
After discussing it as a group the Embera-Chami agreed, concerned that their daughters could die as a result of the practice. Work sessions began with Embera-Chami women and men, as well as representatives from three different UN agencies: the United Nations Population Fund, the International Organization for Migration and UN Women.
First of all, UN representatives asked the Embera-Chami to investigate the origins of the practice, necessary according to them if the clitoris of a newly born was too big – a prediction that she wouldn’t be very feminine – to avoid her rejection by men later on.
They arrived at the conclusion that the practice had been adopted several centuries ago during the years of Spanish colonial rule, probably as a result of contact with African communities that had arrived in Colombia as slaves. This made things much easier.
“We were prepared to negotiate with them if they arrived at the conclusion that it was an ancestral practice and propose a transformation of it,” said Diaz, clarifying that they would never propose anything that might violate the rights of women.
“Since we know how important symbolism is for them, we were going to propose a replacement ritual,” she added. “Perhaps a cleansing ceremony with drops of water or something similar.”