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No girl is safe’: The mothers ironing their daughters’ breasts

IDPs in Katsina

Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq

Cameroonian girls are enduring a painful daily procedure with long lasting physical and psychological consequences.

For most children, their birthday is a time of celebration. But that was not the case for Mirabel when she turned 10..

For Mirabel, a Cameroonian refugee living in Nigeria, turning 10 marked the start of gruelling daily torture – having her breasts ironed with hot stones by her mother.E

Everymorning, a neighbour from the refugee community where she lives in Ogoja, in Nigeria’s southeastern Cross River State, holds her legs firmly in place while her mother takes a burning hot pestle straight from the fire and presses it against her daughter’s chest in an attempt to flatten her breasts.

The procedure can be repeated for months, or even years, and is intended to either stop young girls developing breasts or to flatten them once they have.”

It feels like they are placing real fire on my breasts,” Mirabel says. “I have been in pain since the first day.”

Gender-based violence

Hermother, Angela, says the pain and discomfort her daughter is enduring worries her less than the reports she has heard of teenage girls being sexually harassed or exploited by men. She is determined to focus her efforts on making her daughter less desirable to men.”

I just don’t want her to become a target of boys around her,” says Angela. “I’m aware that many boys here like to chase after little girls.”

Althoughmany of the families Al Jazeera spoke to mentioned the vulnerability of young girls growing up as refugees as one of the reasons for their decision to iron their daughters’ breasts, the practice has been happening in Cameroon for generations.

The origin of the practice is unclear, but about a quarter of women in Cameroon have undergone breast ironing, according to research by Gender Empowerment and Development (GeED), a non-governmental organisation based in Yaounde, Cameroon, which found that in nearly 60 percent of cases, the procedure is carried out by mothers.

READ  Nigerian governor resettles over 1,000 IDPs after attack on his convoy

The United Nations has described breast ironing as one of the most under-reported crimes associated with gender-based violence. It is thought to affect 3.8 million women globally.’No girl is safe here’.Like many other refugees in Cross River State, Mirabel and Angela fled the southwestern Cameroonian town of Akwaya for Nigeria after fighting broke out between government forces and English-speaking separatists who complain that they have been marginalised in the majority French-speaking country. The conflict has forced some 500,000 people from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis in the region.

According to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Nigeria currently hosts more than 50,000 refugees from Cameroon, with 70 percent of these in Cross River State. Roughly half the refugees live in one of four refugee settlements, while the rest live in host communities.

Angela and her daughter arrived in Ogoja in February 2018, joining thousands of other refugees taking shelter in the Adagom and Okende host communities where women and girls have reported being sexually harassed by members of the host communities as well as by other refugees.

“These days, you cannot step out of the house without meeting a man who is demanding sex or inviting you to his home,” says Queen, a 17-year-old girl who fled the southwestern Cameroonian border town of Mamfe with her parents for Adagom.

 

“No girl is safe here.”
More than 12 Cameroonian girls living in settlements in Adagom and Okende told Al Jazeera that they are regularly sexually harassed by men.
“I needed money to buy sanitary pads, so I went to ask a man [in the community] for help but he started touching me as soon as I walked up to him,” says Lydia, a 16-year-old girl who lives in the Adagom refugee settlement. “I ran away as he tried to drag me to him.”
Worried about the safety of their 13-year-old daughter, Helen and her husband made the decision to iron her breasts after she reported that a man whose home she cleans regularly touched her inappropriately.
“The harassment she faced made our decision [to iron her breasts] easier,” explains Helen, who fled Akwaya and lives in the Okende host community with her family. “All we did was for her own good.”
But, Salome Gambo, a senior protection specialist at the Caprecon Development and Peace Initiative, which is based in Abuja but works on child protection in refugee camps across northeast Nigeria, says: “This practice just ends up harming children and putting them at risk of severe complications. Families should rather channel their efforts towards educating their daughters on sex issues.”

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‘Survival sex’

The refugee families’ fears for their daughters are not unfounded. Female refugees and displaced people in Nigeria are at high risk of sexual harassment and exploitation. The UN has said it is aware of a high level of “survival sex” – women turning to prostitution out of desperation – in camps housing Cameroonian refugees in Cross River State.

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said: “For women, the lack of work combined with the over-stretched reception facilities, creates a higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly from survival sex. So far, only a limited number of such cases have been recorded, mainly in the Amana community of Cross River state. However, UNHCR is concerned that many more incidents go unreported or are referred only to community elders.”

But even in their home country, Cameroonian girls are at risk of early marriage and pregnancy. According to UNICEF, in the period between 2008 and 2014, 13 percent of Cameroonian children were married by the time they are 15 and 38 percent by the time they were 18. According to the Cameroon Medical Council, 25 percent of pregnancies occur in school-age girls, and 20 percent of pregnant girls do not return to school.
Many Cameroonian families may fear that living as refugees adds an element of danger for their daughters. But for others, breast ironing is a matter of societal expectation.
“It felt like I was the only one left out,” says Pamela, whose two closest friends had ironed their daughters’ breasts. “I just had to do it like the others did.”

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But whether it takes place in Cameroon or refugee communities elsewhere, activists have been warning of the consequences for the victims’ physical and psychological health.
“Girls who undergo the procedure risk issues like breast cancer, cysts and an inability to breastfeed, not to mention the physical and psychological scars associated with the custom,” said Gambo, who has counselled a number of victims of the practice. “It’s time families put an end to such abuse.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
Author:Philip Obaji Jr.

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Nigerians in Spain say no to genocide

Nigerians resident in Spain have kicked against bad governance and brutalitalisation of innocent citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.

They are in solidarity with the #Endsars protesters.

The #Endsars protest  started by young Nigerians to say no to brutality, impunity and gruesome killings in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the government in the country saw security operatives using live bullets on the protesters last week, October 21, 2020.

In a statement signed by Afolabi Oloko, the Nigerians in Spain said: “In every part  of the world, including Nigeria, we believe protesting is a fundamental right of all citizenry that we can exercise whenever we deem it fit as long as it is civil and devoid of violence but such is not the case in Nigeria where the young future of the country are murdered by their very own government just because they made demands that there must be a reform to the notorious Police department and that the country be reformed in general. Have they asked for too much from a responsible and responsive government?

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“It is so disheartening that after Ten days that the youth refused to back down they resorted to killing, maiming of their own future generations just because they asked and begged for good governance and good policing. It’s a shame that young people are being killed all around the cities of Nigeria from Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo , Benin, Porthacort just to mention a few. It was horrendous seeing over seventy people being murdered at night while still protesting unarmed peacefully in Lekki area of Lagos state. They organised by switching off the street light while they carried out their evil deed against defenceless young people of the country and also took away the CCTV. The commander-in-chief of the Armed forces in person of President Muhamodu Buhari must be tried at the International court for genocide against it’s own people.

“We the compatriots far away in Spain are with our young brothers and sister on the streets saying no to bad governance as you’re in our hearts and prayers. We support you in the just cause you’re are fighting. Fighting for one’s future should not be seen as an affront to the authorities, rather they should look inward and realise that the system is rotten and should be cleansed but not killing innocent young men on the streets with Army being deployed to take lives of vibrant and resourceful, frustrated and change hungry citizens.
“Today, we came out in multitude in solidarity with our compatriots back home to say #ENDSARS! #ENDBADGOVERNANCE #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDCORUPTION #ENDTHEGENOCIDE”

READ  Nigerian governor resettles over 1,000 IDPs after attack on his convoy

 

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ILO, IOM sign agreement to strengthen collaboration on migration governance

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today signed an Agreement to create a framework for cooperation and collaboration to enhance the benefits of migration for all.

The framework includes joint support for improved migration governance, capacity building and policy coherence at national, regional and global levels. Other areas of work may also be developed.

The Agreement was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, and António Vitorino, the IOM Director-General, on Friday at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Ryder said, “this Agreement seals an important alliance between our two organizations. Together, we will be stronger and more effective in both fulfilling our individual mandates and in collaborating on areas that are crucial for reshaping the world of work so that it is more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a brutal impact on economies and societies. Vulnerable groups, particularly migrant workers and their families, are being disproportionately hit. There could be no better time to reinforce our partnership and combine our strengths, so that we can help countries and our constituents build back for a better future.”

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DG Vitorino said, “the agreement that we are signing today will help us further solidify our collaboration at the time when joint solutions are so much needed, with a pandemic that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. As we move towards post-pandemic recovery, we fully embrace the call to build a better world together, tapping into the added value of each partner. With ILO, we have much to co-create and we look forward to future cooperation within the broader UN family, with our partner governments, private sector and civil society.”

The new ILO-IOM Agreement builds on the agencies’ comparative advantages, expertise, and respective constituencies. By encouraging joint initiatives, the Agreement aims to strengthen international migration governance and boost cooperation, capacity building and joint advocacy to promote migrants’ rights and decent work opportunities.

By encouraging social dialogue, it will allow workers` and employers` organizations – who sit equally with governments in the ILO’s tripartite membership structure – to contribute to policy discussions.

READ  FEATURE: Migration, governance and media reporting

A workplan will be developed in the next six months to push forward the collaboration at global, regional and country levels and, more importantly, facilitate the implementation of the Agreement in the field, where both agencies are working directly with affected populations.

It will seek to enhance the agencies joint contribution to their member states, UN country teams, and societies to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agreement will also allow the ILO and IOM to strengthen support for their respective constituencies in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), and contribute to other global and regional migration policy fora and debates.

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Stop enslavement of Africans in other continents- Experts tell African leaders

The second international migration summit by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) ended on Friday, October 16, 2020,  at the Pensioners FM, Ibadan, Oyo State, with a call to  African leaders to deliver good governance to halt continued enslavement of the Africans in other continents through irregular migration.

The conference themed: Migration governance and media strategy for development   with physical and virtual presentations was attended by hundreds of journalists and other participants across the world.

President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, in his remark after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Diaspora Innovation Institute (DII), US, on training and investment opportunities for journalists, said the global media body with over 200 journalists spread across the continents as parts of the fallouts of the summit would produce glossary of terminologies for over 10,000 journalists and media houses beyond Africa.

Speaking at the occasion, Governor Oluwaseyi Makinde of Oyo State hailed JIFORM’s  advocacy and identified poverty as the root cause of irregular migration pledging commitment to reverse the tide through good governance.

Represented by Barrister Olubunmi Ogunniran, Director General of Legal Administration, Oyo State Ministry of Justice, the governor said apart from rescuing trafficked indigenes of the state abroad and creating diaspora unit, he had inaugurated a task force against human trafficking, sexual offenders with prosecute department and further engagement of the youths through economic activities.

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Minister of Labour Sierra Leone, Mr Alpha Timbo; Ghana Ambassador to Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan, Nii Okai Hammond, and the United Nations Youth Ambassador (Ghana), Lilian Addo, all praised what they tagged courageous movement by JIFORM and promised to support the body in its quest to further spread its advocacies.

Chairman of the summit, Patrick Lumumba,  rued the faulty labour and trade laws in Africa limiting development and called on the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) for ntervention to remove migration barriers causing undue frictions between Ghana and Nigeria ditto for the African Union to end the xenophobic attacks in South Africa against other African nationals.

He blamed the crisis on misapplication of resources and corruption among African leaders and urged them to retrace their steps to save the youths from desperate migration to other continents through the desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe lauded JIFORM’s efforts to eradicate irregular migration and vowed to rescue and end the suffering of stranded Nigerians lured through human trafficking to the Middle East and other Arabian nations through collaborations.

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Member of African Union Advisory Committee on Labour Migration, (Ghana) Dr Princess Ocansey urged the African nations to end the Kafala bilateral agreement entered into with some Middle East countres that permitted the en-slavery of mostly African women.

“African leaders must wake up to save the youths from deadly work they are being subjected and replace that with decent work. The Kafala system is a shame and very dehumanizing” she said.

Former Canada Minister of Immigration, Gerry Weiner while delivering his presentation urged the African youths to acquit themselves with the right processes to tap into numerous diaspora opportunities in Canada and elsewhere.

Weiner, who had 12 years working experience in Africa, said only safe and regular migration, would guarantee the actualization of the desire to be part of  economic activities in the world.

The summit had participation from several international speaker that Prince Akin Ojomo from DII; included Johanna Mac from Erich Brost Institute, Germany; Barrister Samuel Adeusi and Ms Omotola Fawunmi both from the US; International Organization for Migration (IOM), Nigeria and Gambia; Rescue African Mission; Synergy Rescue Mission; ThisLebanon Lebanon; Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM); National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP); Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Ghana Immigration Service; Diaspora Innovation Institute, New York, America; and Ghana Immigration Service.

READ  Emirates Airlines to fly NIgerians abroad back home

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