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17.04.2007 General News

Monica fights female genital mutilation

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A year ago, Monica Mbillah was just another student, pursuing a degree in political science and psychology.

Those who knew her liked to refer to her as the sister of 'Miss Ghana'. But now she is a beauty queen in her own right - after she was crowned 'Miss Africa Queen' in August last year.

She competed against several ladies from other parts of the continent and won the pageant, which is organised by XYZ Agency Ghana.

Since her coronation, a lot has changed in her life. She believes she has become "more responsible and careful about the way she relates with people" and she has also "learnt to listen more and talk less."

But that is not as important, considering the work she has been using her reign for and the impact she expects it to make in the lives of other women. "I feel like a pacesetter, so there are some things that I would need to do to leave a sort of a legacy behind for whoever comes after me," she says.

For about eight months, Monica has been campaigning against the practice of female genital mutilation (or circumcision), which has been outlawed in Ghana but is still very prevalent in some communities in the north.

"People don't really want to talk about it and I think it's probably because they don't understand it that well," she says. "FGM really touched my heart that's why I went into it."

Monica believes that apart from being a human rights violation, FGM makes it difficult for many women to achieve their full potential.

"When these young ladies are circumcised, they become very shy and docile and are unable to express themselves with the fear that their opinions will not be listened to," she says.

"It is so because a certain vital part ofthem has been taken away. This makes them unable to reach their full potential."

Working with the Ghana Association of Women's Welfare, representatives of the Inter-African Community against the harmful practices that affect women and children, she's been able to brainstorm and find out ways to help out with those who have been through this painful experience.

Through these efforts, they have also managed to get some people in Navrongo to drop their 'tools' - i.e. stop the practice altogether. "If it is explained further to them what the effects are, then we might have a change in the system," she says.

Monica is also working to produce documentaries on the harmful effects of FGM. Still the most challenging part of the campaign is the task of getting the word round to all communities where FGM is still practiced.

"This is mainly because of the language barrier as well as the barricade culture has formed as people are more likely to stick to what they know (even if they don't understand it) rather than move onto something that is alien to them. We also need funds to get things done. I realize that FGM will not go in my reign. It would be nice if it did ... but I believe that if all comes together in a couple of years, who knows?"

But wait a minute! FGM is not the only thing on Monica's plate. Sickle Cell awareness is also one ofthe projects she took on as Miss Africa Queen.

With this, she is creating consciousness amongst people about the need to be tested for sickle cell before marriage. She has lined up a walk and a concert to promote this cause before she hands over in August.

Source: JIVE

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