Symposium Deliberates on HTPs Draft Convention

ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 24 (ENA) The second symposium to study and adopt a draft convention on the Elimination of All Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) Affecting the Basic Rights of Women and Girl Children launched here yesterday.

The three-day symposium, organized for legislators by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, is the follow-up of the first one IAC held from 10 to 12 September 1997 in collaboration with the OAU and UNECA.

Mrs. Berhane Ras-Work, President of IAC said in her welcoming address following their deliberation the participants of the symposium would come up with amendments which would be submitted to the OAU for adoption.  She said the IAC would then advocate the lobby for its ratification and implementation by all member states.

She indicated that the draft convention, which had been prepared by the IAC, as requested by the OAU, was revised by a panel of legal experts drawn from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali and Egypt at a preliminary meeting held here from 18 to 22 November 1999.

Mrs. Chantal Compaore, the First lady of Burkina Faso and Goodwill Ambassador of the IAC, said in her opening speech that the political will of governments was important in the efforts being made to eliminate HTPs like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  She pointed out that eliminating the practice of FGM was the priority task in the sector of public health in her country.

The representative of UNICEF Mr. Ibrahim Jabr underlined in his statement made at the symposium the importance of, among others, "understanding who decides or is associated" with a certain HTP.  He indicated that UNICEF's project in Ethiopia, for instance, had shown, as a result of effective and well-targeted dialogue and advocacy, fathers had decided not to subject their daughters of FGM.

The representative of WHO Mr. M. Jeacuclos said on his part that 132 million girls and women had been subjected to FGM in 1996, and that each year 2 million girls, most of them live in 28 African countries, were estimated to be at risk.  He said in 1997, WHO had developed a Regional Plan of Action which aims at establishing programmes that would effectively, with legal instruments, abolish FGM and underage pregnancy.  He said: "Polio eradication is fixed by the end of 2000.  Next focus of eradication shall be on FGM."

Jurists and representatives of national committees on HTPs from 15 African countries are attending the symposium being held at the International Livestock Research Institute.

The Inter-African Committee was set up in 1984 as an African NGO to campaign for the eradication of harmful practices that affect the health of women and children.  It has national committees in 26 African countries and group sections in Japan, Belgium, England, Sweden and France.  IAC enjoys official relationship with the OAU, consultative status with the UN and has as observer seat with WHO.  In 1995 it won the prestigious UN award on population, it was learnt.