WHO ARE WE ?
We are now about fifty who meet up once a month and to form this discussion group. There, we share our respective experiences concerning the crimes we have suffered: excision and forced marriage. We mostly talk about what reparation has brought to us.
We were lost until now. Being in Paris, after having fled our villages, we now understand that we are not alone.
We became friends (since most of us come from Peuhl Guinea Conakry), but many Mauritians, Senegalese, Malians or Ivorians have joined us.
If we are repaired, we invite the others not to fear this life-changing operation and to go meet with Dr Pierre Foldes (Saint Germain en Laye), or Dr Ghada Hatem (Maison des Femmes de l'Hôpital Saint Denis).
We fight everyday to be more integrated, but especially for our combat to be heard.
Our organisation's leaders are :
+ Danielle MERIAN, our president;
+ Fatoumata Binta DIOP,our vice-president;
+ Dominique ZADEGAN, our treasurer;
+ Oumou BOLLY, our Corporate Secretary.
I was born in Paris in 1938, where I lived [under] the german occupation. When I was seven, I discovered the photographs of the concentration camps.
Being confronted to what man can do to man, I decided to dedicate my life to be the voice of the voiceless.
For forty two years, I practised as a lawyer at the Paris Bar. I focused on the defence of human rights in multiple organisations: the Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture and Death Penalty (ACAT), Prisoners Without Barriers (PRSF) to humanise West African prisons, Parcours d'Exil, a care centre for the victims of torture, and finally SOS Africaines en Danger
Maître Danielle MERIAN
After the November 13, 2015 attacks, Danielle Marian went to present flowers in front of the Bataclan theatre when a BFMTV journalist presented a microphone to her :
" It is so important to bring flowers to our dead. It is so important to see, multiple times, Hemingway's Moveable Feast. Because we are a very ancient civilisation, and we shall stand to defend our values. These values are Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. And we will fraternise with 5 millions of muslims who peacefully and kindly practice their religion. And we will fight against the ten thousand barbarians who kill in the name of Allah. "
The success of this message on social media helped Danielle Merian to promote SOS Africaines en Danger ! on multiple TV show (Le Grand 8, Le Petit Journal, C à vous, Vivement Dimanche, etc), and newspapers (Le Monde, La Vie, Télérama,etc.).
After these events, Danielle Merian co-wrote Nous n'avons pas fini de nous aimer, (We are not done loving each other), with Tania de Montaigne. The book tells the story of her past as a strong and free woman, fighting in the name of fraternity and kindness.
Initiator et vice-president
The denial's extent
This is how I first heard of the excision problem, yet still without being fully aware of its magnitude, nor of the violence and importance that was involved.
It is the amount of excision cases in Egypt that first alerted me. This country that I had visited so many times faced the problem of having 91% of its women excised, aged from 14 to 49. In other words: every woman, with a few exceptions. The numbers were famously published by the UNICEF, yet no-one talked about it there.
The fact that it is not talked about results in denial, not ignorance.
Yet we cannot know for sure..
Egypt: the unfortunate origin
I went back to Egypt with the intention of understanding better what was going on. There, people often had mixed feeling when talking about the ancestral practise. They seemed to be thinking: "Why do you concentrate your research on us since not that many women are subject to excision here?"
I tried to respond to their irritation by explaining that my interest in this topic was only meant to start a global debate, and that Egypt only seemed to be a good starting point.
Historians explain that excision goes back to the Pharaonic period. My only intention was to study, in the land of its birth, the contemporary outcomes of the two thousand year old phenomenon.
Egypt was also seeing an end to its revolution and it therefore seemed hard to predict how the practise would evolve. Would it grow or decrease?
Finally, Egypt was especially interesting to study, since excision was both practised by Muslims and Christians, counter to the most common beliefs.
The end of excision is a goal
not a dream!
Since 2010, personal research and requests have led me to explore the themes of feminine slurs/violations (rape, trade, prostitution...), and their reach and stake.
My process is, as far as possible, to collect victim women testimonials and those of the people who fight by their side.
My aim was then to study the phenomenon by comparing these different approaches (medical, social, political, historical...), giving me the chance to get a global understanding of the situation.
The birth of Excision, Parlons-En !
After having spent three years on the field, I met with multiple organisations already working in France and other places, following victims and undertaking actions to prevent excision.
We decided together to organise a common event around February 6th (International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation). Nothing would have been possible without the help of the Gams Federation and Tostan France. Others organisations came along to build the core of Excision, Parlons-En !, including SOS Africaines en Danger !
That first step had a larger impact than we had first predicted. The February 6th event gathered more than 350 professionals, worldwide experts and three ministers.
The success of Excision, Parlons-En ! followed the intention of bringing together a diverse expertise (health, social, juridical...), without ever trying to substitute the present actors.
Excision, Parlons-En ! is a resourceful platform collecting energies and motivation as a mean to abandon the practise of excision.
Even if we fight against two thousand years of history and fallacious beliefs, we are convinced that the end of excision is getting closer, and it is our goal.
We will get there together.