Chad + 1 more

Altering actions, changing minds: Knowledge of harmful traditions spur tangible change for refugees in Chad

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original
Traditions are a part of the cultural roots for any society. They define beliefs and determine attitudes. They can break down boundaries or build up barriers.

But certain practices endanger the lives of those who follow them. Take the traditional practice of female genital cutting. Still practiced in many parts of Africa, CCF came across this practice after beginning services for the refugee population in Chad. In 2004, CCF responded to the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Chad, where than 230,000 refugees from the conflicts in Darfur still live.

Touloum is one camp where CCF works, and where it has uncovered the traditional practice of early marriage and female genital cutting that threaten the well-being of the young girls in these camps.

CCF, through continued presence with these populations and by setting up child well-being committees, slowly entered into a discussion with the elders of the camps about some of their practices towards their young girls.

Initially with support from the U.S. government and UNHCR, CCF brought in a well-known scholar, Dr. Ragab, who held numerous meetings with elders in the camps where CCF works.

"Female genital cutting (FGC) has been practiced based on cultural beliefs and under the cover of religion," he said. "The health implications on the child-bearing age of women are very high, which is one of the major obstacles that deter girls and women from full participation in their community and society at large."

"FGC is a serious problem in refugee camps in Chad ... It further violates their rights for a better quality of life," he added.

With help from CCF's latest donor, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), refugees continue to gather to discuss the deeply rooted traditional practices toward women and girls, and to discuss human rights in their society. They also discuss how some practices further affect the health, cultural barriers and traditions of their community. The gatherings include not only women, but also men and children at CCF's Child-Centered Spaces.

"The only good that has come from this conflict is that we've learned from the violence," said Abraham Souleymane, one of the male refugees who attends training sessions.

"We feel that we have come out of the dark and learned a new way. After this violence ends in our region we will be able to go back home, and it will be a better place."

CCF provides literacy training to refugee women in Chad, and knowledge of livelihood skills. Some of these women become community educators or birth attendants. Others use the information to influence their children and husbands, helping, CCF hopes, to end the cycle of harmful traditional practices.