Traditional, religious and civil society leaders of Africa gathered on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to confirm their commitment in joining hands with the African Union Commission, the United Nations and the Spotlight Initiative and taking bold action to end child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices.
Thomas Huyghebaert, the Head of Policy Cooperation at the EU Delegation to the African Union said during an interview with Kurt Williams on Channel Africa that “we can change legislation, or improve access to services, but to change mind-sets and challenge stereotypes, we need to engage at the community level – engage men, boys, traditional and religious leaders at the grassroots level”.
At least one in three young women in Africa are married before they turn 18. Although there are signs of small progress in changing attitudes toward FGM, the practice remains a major problem across many countries on the continent. About 200 million girls and women have been subjected to the practice.
Across the continent of Africa, traditional leaders, including religious leaders, continue to play significant roles as influencers and custodians of cultural practices within communities.
As attention grows to the slow progress on ending gender-based violence, including child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), traditional leaders have a critical role in shifting the deep-rooted cultural beliefs that justify the perpetuation of these harmful practices.
Huyghebaert also explained the role the European Union is playing in assisting African governments through the African Union with a strong emphasis that a united Africa is possible given their success journey and the subsequent benefits it has for EU member states.
By Kurt Williams for African View News