The Mauritanian President Bans Female Genital Mutilation
In spring 2006, Rüdiger Nehberg is invited by the newly elected Head of State of Mauritania, Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, to report on the progress of the “Caravan of Hope” on its way through the Mauritanian desert. Nehberg expresses his gratitude for, and happiness about, the recent legislation: a few months before the meeting, President Vall declared by decree of 5 December 2005 that female genital mutilation would henceforth be sanctioned by lengthy prison sentences and steep fines. This really was a breakthrough.
Sewing Machines for Former Circumcisers – Pilot Project
Nehberg takes advantage of his conversation with the Head of State to meet seven former circumcisers afterwards. Their ages range from 28 to 60 and they have been out of work since the new law came into force. They are all widows or divorcees and have been blessed with many children.
Hama, who is 55 years old, speaks for the group: “We can’t do sums or write and this is the first time we’ve even been to school”. The school is their meeting point.
“What else do you know how to do to earn money apart from circumcising?”
They answer timidly: “Cook, sew, dye, clean”.
“Would it be worth your while sewing clothes and selling them?”
Without further ado, two made in China, hand-operated, Singer sewing machines, twenty giant reels of thread, two pairs of dressmaking scissors and ten bolts of brightly coloured material are purchased. A “sewing cooperative” is set up as a small pilot project. Over ten days, a tailor teaches the women how to cut out cloth, sew and maintain the machines.
All the women are treated on an equal footing. New material must be bought from the proceeds of the finished articles. A clause in the women’s contract stipulates that anyone who continues to mutilate girls will be thrown out and not replaced.
All in all, the “Project” has cost no more than Euro 500. It remains to be seen whether it proves to be a turning point for the women; so far the signs are good. Just three months later, we received a message: “The tailor was a stroke of luck. The goods are selling well. The women organised a show of their work in the town and sold the entire collection! Hama would like to rent a tiny shop on the market”.