20 September 2017

P&D Factor: “Girls and Women: Education, Health, Equality and Rights” Project in Guinea- Bissau

Mani's story - She was between 15 and 19 years old (without documents and different ages according Mani and her parents), ran away from home when she realized that her family was preparing the wedding with someone she only knew from brief visits to her parents' house. She went to a police station and was sent to a shelter center for young girls, where we met her with other girls and many children.

In the conciliation space, her parents tried to convince her to return home, to marriage with their friend (67 years old) who would treat her well. They could not return the support they received from this friend since Mani was six years old and allowed her the first years of school, food on the table and health care, neither the money for the marriage preparation.Her mother had also married early (age 12) and her father (38 more) had always treated her well - she was the fourth wife.

Fatu is 15 years old with a 10-month-old baby. She does not know when she was promised, but she remembers very well that after 11 years old the "husband" would visit her parents' house and spend the night with her. He was a known person and knew that the Law did not allow marriage with a child. When  she realized she was pregnant ran away. The birth was difficult, lost lots of blood and tore. After she went to the health center for contraception and try to treat the fistula. She wants to go back to school, to be a doctor and to give a good life to her son. Meanwhile she lives in the house of a woman who supports her and who promised to enroll her in school in order to have a better life.

Girls and Women: Education, Health, Equality and Rights is a project to promote/ increase Equality and Empowerment of key community actors for the end of Female Genital Mutilation, Child and forced marriages and promotion of education, health and rights in Guinea- Bissau and Diaspora within the framework of Agenda 2030 and other commitments on development and human rights.  Girls and Women: Education, Health, Equality and Rights results from the partnership between P & D Factor - Portugal and the CNAPN of Guinea Bissau with the support of the Portuguese Government.

It is an articulated intervention project with other local civil society partnerships, including women's, youth and religious leaders' organizations operating in 10 districts of the 20 in the Bissau Autonomous Sector. The work in progress is encompassing different groups of social actors at various levels: women opinion leaders, journalists, former-excisers (fanatecas), young leaders, girls, young men, religious leaders, teachers and health professionals from the intervention districts.

In Guinea-Bissau, most prevention interventions are carried out in rural areas, including the ones supported by main international co-operations. In urban areas around Bissau, the number of migrants from the interior regions of the country is increasing, but also from the neighboring countries, especially Guinea-Conacri, Senegal and Mali. To the CNAPN and its member-associations, the number of cases of forced and child marriages, as well as FGM, is increasing. This is the first urban intervention project developed in Guinea-Bissau and directly with communities. UNICEF, with local partners, interventions in the remaining districts of Bissau. 

According to the latest data in Bissau there is a prevalence of 33% of FGM and 23% of married girls before 18 years old. Female Genital Mutilation, a social norm deeply rooted in Guinea-Bissau, affects about 45% of women between the ages of 15-49 and 30% of children between 0-14 years old.

In July, a team from P & D Factor traveled to Bissau to initiate the Project's activities and Public presentation of it. There were meetings with imams of the various mosques in Bissau, Djumbais in the districts, working visits to NGOs, meetings with official entities - parliamentarians, members of the government and the United Nations system. It was also the the opportunity of sharing IEC  skills and strategies between the two teams, including campaigns and social media, as weel as the implementation of the theoretical-practical training course for journalists and animators (21hours): The Social Role of Civic Journalism and Mass Media in the field of Equality, that covered 24 journalists from different media and 6 monitors of the Project. This is a bridge initiative between two countries and two CSO to increase and promote girls and women rights as critical to development with key community actors in Guinea- Bissau and Diaspora.