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What follows is a short piece from Casey Liston, a young adult women delegate from the US National Council of Churches and Church Women United reflecting on her experience at CSW57. As we enter into final preparations for CSW58, we will frequently be posting similar pieces from other young women delegates to CSW as well.

My experience at the United Nation’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women was, in one word, kindling. The dual purpose of “kindling”—as a verb and a noun—reflects the depth of what I have taken away from five days of lectures, panels, trainings, worships, and new personal connection. The CSW kindled a new, personal call to action that I had never felt with such urgency: during a panel discussion hosted by UNAIDS, I listened to speaker after speaker discuss the ways that the economic and social empowerment of women could help lower HIV transmission rates in Africa and prevent related violence against women and girls. As each presenter went through long lists of the different barriers women are facing in accessing protection, treatment, and counseling for HIV and violence alike, I found myself wondering when these panelist were going to explain what they were doing to solve this issue. At that moment, the realization hit me: it is my job to solve those issues. When I came to the CSW with an NGO (and as an active member of civil society), I put myself forward as someone with the capacity or compassion to make the necessary changes to end violence against women and girls. Of course, this will not be my job alone—and that is where the role of “kindling” as a noun enters my experience at the CSW. For those five days, I represented the National Council of Churches USA and Church Women United, the United Church of Christ, and young ecumenical women everywhere. As a delegate, it was my duty to absorb and learn for every member of those groups who weren’t in attendance. Not only did the knowledge and experience I gained at the CSW kindle my personal call to action, it will act as kindling to a much larger fire, one burning across the planet as people of faith call for an end to the violence that has pervaded women since the dawn of time. With every speech I heard and every note I took during my time in New York, I increased my capacity and ability to enact change, and I am now able to increase the capacity of others to do the same. My time at the Commission on the Status of Women was enlightening, deeply spiritual, and at times, disconcerting. But above all, it was kindling, for myself and for the larger movement to end and prevent all types of violence against women and girls.

Casey Liston
United Church of Christ

537575_513984751973642_372258714_nA final report on CSW57 is now available online, which you can find here.  In addition to including the Agreed Conclusions, this report also lists other matters brought before the commission, a provisional agenda for CSW58 and more.

Additionally, Ecumenical Women is looking to share stories of how these year’s delegates brought the work of advancing the rights of women and girls back home after CSW57 concluded.  If you have any interesting stories you’d like to share (in either video or text), either comment on this post or email us at ecumenicalwomen@gmail.com.  We hope to hear from you soon!

P1000168Dear Ecumenical Women,

How wonderful it was to be with you all in New York City earlier this spring.  Especially wonderful was the outcome of the Commission: reaching Agreed Conclusions! You can read the Agreed Conclusions (available in all six UN languages) here.  Our advocacy team has also prepared a document about the outcomes directly related to the Ecumenical Women advocacy talking points we spent so much energy promoting—language relating to all three of our priority themes was included!  You can find that document here.

This is a great success, and it is just the beginning.  If you haven’t already, take some time to read through the Agreed Conclusions and identify the areas where your government needs to take action.  Share the story of your participation at the UN CSW and use the Agreed Conclusions as the basis for advocacy work at home.

How are you using what you learned at the CSW in your home country, region, or neighborhood?  We’d love to hear about it!  Send an email with your follow-up story to ecumenicalwomen@gmail.com and we will post it on the Ecumenical Women blog: www.ecumenicalwomen.org.   The stories, reflections and videos posted on our blog during CSW are good resources too; think about how you might be able to use them in your own context to tell about the CSW.

As we continue to lift up the priorities of the 57th CSW, we are also preparing for the 58th.  Soon, we will be asking for your input on specific themes related to the topic of CSW58, “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.”  Visit http://www.worldwewant2015.org/ to learn more and share your point of view!

Although we are scattered around the world, we remain connected by our prayers and actions to bring about a world in which women and men, girls and boys, can live into the full expression of God’s creation.

With you in hope,

Rev. Meagan Manas
Chair, Ecumenical Women at the United Nations

An interview with Keti Zazanashvili, a young adult delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women.  Keti discusses her experience at CSW57 and the role of dance in her work to eliminate violence against women and girls.

 

 

The “advanced unedited” version of agreed conclusions on the 57th Commission on the Status of Women have been posted on the CSW57 website and can be found here.  Agreed conclusions were adopted on the CSW57 priority theme, “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls” on 15 March 2013.

Raimy Ramirez comes from the Student Christian Movement of Venezuela and is a part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the UNCSW57.

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If we are in a crowd and hear a voice that rises above the others, we can think that probably this stronger voice, is a woman´s voice and a Latin American woman´s voice. Our stories, our experiences have made us loud people. We can not afford to speak quietly, because our lives need to be told loudly, because although we do a lot of noise, they are not always heard.

Parallel events of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN, have helped screams emerge not only from South, but also from East, West, North and Center to be heard. We have gathered women around the world in a place where the voice finds an ear to be heard.  However, are those voices shouting stories and demanding justice, getting to where they should be heard? Do these voices have relevance in the discussions that take place within the “solemn” United Nations compound?

Many… have not.

The challenge  is to empower those spaces where decisions are made, where over the needs of women laws are legislated, where few speak and many suffer. For this reason because even the ears of the people who choose not to be open, we have to keep screaming loud and keep in mind the need to keep walking, because although “the pace is slow, is still underway.”

For this, Nelly del Sid, Honduran women shouts loudly for defending their right to build a country without foreign military. Here is why Magda Lopez , colombian, speaks loudly when she speaks in favor of the right of women to participate in the peace process in Colombia. Here is why Cuban women, speak loudly when sharing with the world that their contribution was essential for the eradication of illiteracy in Cuba. Here is why in El Salvador, young women raise their voices in defense of an environmentally just world. This is why women in Venezuela scream in defense of a process that is sustained and will continue because of the hands of  fighter women.  Here is why a small delegation of young women around the world, identified themselves with a label that says “WSCF” are making so much noise!

Rosina Scott-Fyfe is a graduate from Otago University in New Zealand, and part of the Student Christian Movement Aotearoa. She is part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the UNCSW57. Written March 11, 2013.

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“When we are aware of our inner resources and use them, they help us to be resilient and assertive. It’s when we disconnect from ourselves and react to the world around us that we can become violent. By involving both men and women in this process real sustainable change can occur” –Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University

 

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:14-17 (NIV)

I begin with these two quotes because they articulate why I am here: to use my faith to take real action; to use my faith to bring about real transformation in the communities I am a part of; to see the connections between myself and others, globally and locally, and to use my own personal voice to advocate for those who have less. To be part of the transformation of attitudes.

Today I attended three parallel events which moved me and connected to my work in different ways. The first, entitled “Both Men and Women using their inner resources to bring change: relearning peace” and run by Brahma Kumaris, reflected on how we need to draw on our own “inner resources”- what some of us might label God, the Spirit- before we can make meaningful change. We had the honour of hearing from four inspirational panelists- Carl Murrel, Denise Scotto, Luis Mora and Gayatri Naraine, who shared with us through story and experience a richness of ideas. What resonated with me was the idea that we need to go beyond engagement and aim for transformation and elevated conciousness of our communities. And as Gayatri expressed, women we have a pivotal role of healing and transformation; although at our core, our soul does not have a gender, we were born into this body and onto this planet and it is up to every one of us to use our power for justice and peace. The most important tool is ourselves.

So what does this look like? What is the physical manifestation of this inspiration? It’s all very well talking about peace but we need to put it into action. What the actions look like will be different and will depend on our cultural context but they need aspects of innovation and creativity. The second event I attended looked at Primary Prevention tools- stopping violence before it happens, and was presented by Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA). A 15 page toolkit created by AWAVA is available free online here. http://www.nrwn.org.au/toolkits/

I like the idea of primary prevention because it is all about changing attitudes, and addresses the underlying causes of violence. It ties in to our desire to belong. If our assumptions are that humans are innately violent, and if this is the way things roll in our communities, this idea is perpetuated through action. And the inverse is true: if we believe that humans are innately peaceful, and this is the belief of our community, this belief will be lived out.

Nothing could be more important in the eliminations and prevention of violence against women and girls than the involvement of men and boys. The third workshop I went to today was so inspirational, and the room was packed. We heard stories from men working with men and boys on attitudinal change to hold the conversations about violence against women. Part of this is just planting the idea. It is about providing a new lens through which to look at these issues, because they are not just women’s issues: they are men’s issues too because while most men are not the perpetrators, most of the perpetrators against women are men, and, as the panelists shared, we cannot tell by looking at a man what his attitude will be. Men are also victims and survivors of this same violence, perpetuated by assumptions about gender. Some of the key messages from this powerful event were that we do not need a society that “protects” women, we need a society that respects women; and that men can be strong without the use of violence. Fathers and positive male rolemodels have a key role through the messages they give their sons. And a quote I found particularly inspiring, from Q Cochlin from Brooklyn’s Connect programme: “In doing this work, I become a human being”.

Within the midst of this presentation, a conflict arose where a member of the audience spoke out about wanting time to ask questions, felt he was being lectured to, and was quite derogatory to the moderators of the event. I greatly admired the way in which the moderators handled the situation- not reacting, which would be the easiest thing to do, but treating the man who offered the comment with respect but also respecting the time and knowledge of the panelist who were there. It was a ‘wow’ moment for me, seeing this man really practice what he was preaching, using non-violence to proactively negotiate a conflict. I think that this is something all of us can learn from.

So in reflection, our attitudes are how we live out our lives. To live our lives truthfully, we need to put into action the values we are promoting: faith and action is inextricably linked. These ideas are not new to any of us, but I think it is worth taking some time to reflect on.

 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” – Romans 12:2 (KJV)

The World Council of Churches (a member organization of Ecumenical Women) delivered an oral statement at the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women on 13 March 2013. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC Associate General Secretary, spoke on behalf of the Council.  Check out a  transcript of the statement below:

Transcript:

The World Council of Churches, a global fellowship of churches with a total membership of 580 million wrote in March 1992 to the Secretary General of the United Nations, “In various international fora, women are urging the United Nations to recognize that violence against women constitutes the violation of the basic human rights of half the world’s population. As Christians we support these initiatives, guided by the firm conviction that all human beings are made in the image of God and deserve protection and care.”

In a statement prepared for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the World Council of Churches said:

“It has been painful for us to acknowledge that institutions which should stand in solidarity with women, including governments and the churches, have not often responded with resolute action. We encounter, through our contact with women at the periphery of all our societies, the struggle for dignity and livelihood that women engage in every day. We believe that empowerment is not possible as long as women live in contexts of violence, often exacerbated by cultural and religious tradition.”

It was also said:

“We draw the attention to the liberating power of religions and we affirm the positive and supportive role that the churches and other religious institutions can play in standing in solidarity with those women who have to make ethical choices and decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive rights. But of equal concern to the World Council of Churches is the increasing religious extremism in all faiths and the deleterious consequences this has on women’s legal, political and social rights.”

These statements were made two decades ago, but they are still valid and highly relevant in relation to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women today. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to reiterate that women’s rights are human rights, and that human rights are universal. Traditional values or religious beliefs cannot justify the acceptance of violence against women, nor can they be accepted as limitations on women’s rights and freedom. Women as well as men are created in the image of God and deserve to be respected, protected, and cared for. It is necessary for member states to agree upon and protect strong international frameworks. Civil society, including the faith based community, has an important role to challenge attitudes and traditions that contribute to undermining women’s rights and dignity. We the peoples of the United Nations have a shared responsibility to protect, defend, and expand women’s rights and freedom.

Agreed conclusions at #CSW57 have been reached! We give thanks for the careful discernment and work of everyone involved. #EcuWomenCSW

image001by Maria Murerwa, delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.   You can find part one of this post here.
There were so many highlights for me during CSW I find it hard to choice which ones to write about. As a young Rwandan woman, I was so proud to have my country represented and for me to be able to attend their events. Rwanda is doing amazing work in promoting gender equality. Professor Shirley Randell spoke on the “global perspective on violence against women: in the case of Rwanda.” Her presentation focused on education programs that are provided to women, girls, boys and men at the grassroots level about how they should be part of ending GBV. They are educating girls in secondary schools to start to envision and plan for their future at the same time providing literacy programs for illiterate women. Programs like these will help empower women and hence preventing GBV.There have been economic empowering opportunities for women in Rwanda. Before the 1994 genocide, women had to have permission from their husbands to start a business, but today many women especially young women are taking part in entrepreneurial opportunities without the consent of husbands, fathers, bothers. Even though women contribute to the growth of the country and its economy, they still find it hard to get things like loans compared to men. However, I must say that I am so proud of my country and how much has been achieved. The government is very supportive of gender equality in Rwanda; in fact it would have been almost impossible if it wasn’t for the government support and the large group of female legislatures (56 percent). Women are now part of decision making at the local, national, and even global levels.

While most men still wrestle with the concept of gender equality and gender balance, a network of Rwanda “MenEngage” believes that a  “new positive masculine identity is needed, one that does not depend on superiority over women.” I am happy to know that men are getting together to form a movement that is fighting the ideas that lead to GBV.

More on creating positive masculinity, The Men’s Story Project is an organization based in California that works with men on break the silence. When I first hear what this woman was doing was quick to judge because it seemed like it was taking the focus away from the reason we were there, VAW not men. However, the more I listened and with the videos of the men telling their stories, I was so glad that someone was working with me. We saw some videos of men telling their stories through poems, songs acts, and this made them talk about things that might have hurt them when they were children, violence that happened to their mothers, something that may still happen to them or things they have done to others due to social, economic class or sexual orientation. This project is a good reminder to society that violence against women (VAW) does not only affect women, but also their children, and those children can grow up to be violent on other women in their lives.

This was an amazing experience for me. I am very grateful to have been part of it, thanks to the LWF Women in Church and Society desk and the Lutheran Office for World Community for giving me this opportunity and thanks to all the women and men who are working hand in hand to end this horrific epidemic. Violence against women should be eradicated, and it will take girls and boys, women and men working together. Let’s all together break the silence, take a step towards education and don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t” because you are a woman. Together we can…

An interview with Sophy Kengoo and Haley Mills, two young adult delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Sophy and Haley discuss their experience at the CSW and the role of dance in their work to eliminate violence against women and girls.


image001by Maria Murerwa, delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

I have been very blessed this year to attend this commission on the Status of women (CSW 57) and the Ecumenical women orientation and events.  I am always blown away by the people I meet, the work they do, the energy and the fact that most of the women and men come with a common goal of empowering women. This week, I have attended many great NGOs  Parallel events that have been eye opening and hopeful; however there is a still a lot of work to be done in to end gender based violence. I went to so many events that are worth sharing. I will highlight a few which include, ending female genital Mutilation (FGM/FGC), Ending violence against women in Rwanda, and creating positive masculinity (the men’s storytelling project.) This year, the theme is “Ending all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.” Violence against women is a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights. It cuts lives short, causes women to be silent and leave in tremendous pain and fear everywhere around the world.

This conference brings together women and men from all corners of the world to the United Nations headquarters in New York for two weeks to address and find solutions for issues that affect women. The same time CSW is happening the Ecumenical women join in forces together with CSW.  Many issues are discussed in hopes to find solid solutions for them. Some of the topics but to mention a few included, ending early child marriage, violence in widowhood, ending impunity of sexual violence, violence against women living with disabilities, violence against rural and indigenous women, Military sexual violence, elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM), mental health communities, violence against clergies in the church, violence against aging women, gendercide and many others.

It is unfortunate that at least one out three women worldwide have faced violence.  Women are here to break the silence and find solutions to end violence against women.  This conference serves as a platform for women to break the patriarchal male centered system that is feed by cultural, social and religious practices that exists in most societies.

I attended two separate parallel events that addressed the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the world health organization (WHO) FGM “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” One event was on Anti-FGM legislature in African and local communities’ reactions sponsored by the women’s front Norway. This organization is working with the Nyaturu tribe in Northern central Tanzania (Singida area) where Ms. Chiku Ali, one of the panelists grew up. Ms. Chiku has been working on this issue for so many years now in Singida. The Nyakuru tribe practices the right of passage which includes, FGM, tooth extraction and cutting a mark on the forehead.

There have been many declarations to barn this practice since 1967. One famous declaration was the “Arusha declaration” this was followed by so many campaign. The idea was good, but the practices did not stop. People especially the elderly, continued the practice silently when the government used force to stop FGM. When children who were not mutilated got sick, the people believed that it was a curse from the ancestors because they are angry at the authority for stopping FGM.  Ms.Chiku luckily survived this horrendous practice thanks to her father. A devoted Imam who made “a mistake” (as Ms.Chiku jokingly said) to send his young daughter to boarding school. Young Ali asked her grandmother and mother about this practice and why it was important for her to have it, but their answers did not satisfy her. Ali’s best friend died from an infection cause by FGM. This made Ali so upset that she decided to talk about the issue with her father. Ali did not want to go through what her friend had gone through, and so did her father. And so because her father said didn’t permit it, Ali was safe from FGM .

The second event had powerful speakers whose stories were heart sinking, but yet so hopeful for a future without FGM.  For the second event was on FGM / FGC: how to can faith communities help to end it? Sponsored by Mpanzi, 28 Too many, LWF and Tearfund.  I will focus on an amazing woman who is a survivor of FGM and how she is using her voice to break the silence against this practice in her native land Kisii, Kenya. Ms. Jackie Ogega is a co-founder of Mpanzi , an organization based in Kenya which works to promote peace and development in rural African communities through education, women’s empowerment, health and livelihoods. Ms. Ogega is also an author of a new book called Pervasive violence, which was launched on March 8, 2013. This book is about her story as a survivor of FGM. In her remarks, she highlighted the dangers of this practice to a girl/woman’s health. She is not afraid to share her story because she knows that it can help other women tell their stories and be part of ending FGM for the generations to come. Ms. Ogega believes that in order to end this vicious practice, we need education. She thanked her mother for giving her opportunity to education, which helped her not to make the same chose for her teenage daughter.

I found her story very inspiring especially because she is not embarrassed to say it happened to her. So many women would have been very uncomfortable to even talk about this matter because it is so personal. Well she is not, in fact she acknowledges that FGM/FGC is part of her “identity but it does not hold her back” and knowing her it definitely does not define who she is either. I think that her story will inspire other women to tell their stories and advocated to end it. As the saying goes, “charity begins at home,” Ms.Ogega has started with her own daughter by not allowing this practice to happen to her.

FCM/FGC continues to be a form of violence against women around the world and it is time that we broke the silence and we need to bring both girls boys to speak about this. I was especially moved by speech of Nora Muturi Ms. Ogega’s daughter who reminded us that this practice is not only in Africa but even here in America and it takes many forms. I thought that you will be happy to know that a resolution to “Ending female genital mutilation” was passed as of 2012 by the UN General Assembly. So yeah to that…We all have a story to tell, don’t let anyone tell your story because you are who you are and your story is unique because.

IMG_5071A Reflection from the End of CSW Week 1 and International Women’s Day, by Haley Mills, from the Student Christian Movement USA and part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Friday ended week one of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Appropriately, Friday was also International Women’s Day. A march was held to celebrate this day. Women and men marched bringing human rights theory to life and truths of the power of women to voice. Banners displayed, voices raised, and smiles flashed as rainy snow fell. Simultaneously, in offices and meeting rooms, women and men discussed proposals, language, and strategy. I sat surrounded by smart phones, legal pads, and coffee cups rather than banners, signs, and chants.
I’m willing to admit that I was not sorry to not be in the cold or wet, but I was a little disappointed not to join the visible, palpable camaraderie of so many spirited women and men united to celebrate women. Nevertheless, the work of words comprises an integral component of the CSW. From the words of the resolution (and proposed agreed conclusions) to the words of sacred texts, these writings influence the lives of women across the globe, for better or for worse.

For me, that is why I enter these textual worlds. Diving into the biblical interpretation reveals the work of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which the text as been manipulated. The Bible invites me into the conversation with the God who created this world and the people who have walked with that God. Following the path blazed by of the Communion of Saints requires discernment, humility and community to enter this conversation. Voices from all corners of creation must be joined to see the Spirit working.
In the same way, wrestling with the agreed language cannot be done alone. All voices must be present to ensure the full protection of women and the comprehensive recognition of their rights. I must listen to my sister, whether I fully agree or not. As a Christian delegate, I pray to recognize the liberating work Jesus the Christ at work in the deliberations, discussions, and debriefs continuing to “proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:18b-19, NRSV).


An interview with Dr. Valli Batchelor, a World Student Christian Federation/ World Council of Churches delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women and Dustin Wright, a staffer with the Lutheran Office for World Community. Dustin and Valli discuss their experience at the CSW, the role of dance in Valli’s work and the upcoming WCC publication on clergy sexual abuse of women, “When Pastors Prey.”

by Rosemarie Doucette, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Rosemarie DoucetteThere was an awesome energy last week at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women!  Clearly times are changing for the better as issues of inequality, injustice, and violence were brought to light with grace and power.   Women across differences of faith, race, gender identity, ethnicity, and education united in the effort to bring truth and justice to those places where they are most needed.  I was very impressed with the progress made in Mauritania in the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM).  Putting all girls at risk for their physical health, the deeper psychological damage that is done is often harder to assess and there are few resources for addressing it.  While this is a harmful practice, it is nonetheless an integral part of the tradition of many cultures so its eradication must be approached with sensitivity and options must be introduced.

I was encouraged by the work of speaker Mariem M’Bareck of Mauritania who has worked extensively with both the religious community and health care providers in order to educate and mobilize people from within their own communities instead of alienating them through a campaign waged from outside of their culture.  First Mariem met with a few Imams who established that the Koran does not require FGM of any female, of any age, for any circumstance.  The Imams, respected as wise religious leaders, will educate the people in their communities so that over time the misunderstanding that FGM is a requirement of Islam might be corrected.  The group of Imams who have made this commitment has grown from two to over two hundred.  Health care providers will approach the eradication of FGM from a health standpoint, highlighting the extreme and lifetime health risks involved while teaching women and men that the reasons used to justify it are based on misconceptions, superstitions, and myths.

Another piece of the situation is that the women who perform the cutting will be left without a livelihood.  It is important that their financial and social needs be met by the community because they are most often uneducated and this will be a difficult thing to process, that their service to the community will no longer be needed.

Finally, and perhaps the most uplifting and easiest transformation to make following the eradication of FGM will be to provide young girls with new rituals to mark their passage from babies to young girls and from young girls to young women.  For thousands of years young the passage of boys to young adulthood has been marked by circumcision, preceded and followed by communal celebrations and privileges.  Girls, on the other hand, were more likely to be cut in private and would have to spend even more time in healing.  Their passage to womanhood was generally not celebrated in community.  In the new light of hope, equality, and human rights, communities where FGM is being eradicated are now replacing this practice with healthy ways of celebrating and marking this life passage, thus ensuring better physical and psychological health, and more social equality.

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