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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Mutilation campaigner wins BBC award
Fon of Mbemi with village elders (pic: Lindsay Miesko)
The Fon of Mbemi (right) agreed to ban female circumcision
A young Cameroonian who succeeded in getting the practice of female genital mutilation discontinued in his village has been selected as the winner of BBC World Service's Outlook programme's stand-up-for-your-rights competition.

British journalist and campaigner George Monbiot judged the entry by Cyril Ebie, from the small settlement of Mbemi - about 30km from the town of Bamenda in north-west Cameroon - as the overall winner.

Ebie had written in describing how he defended his sister from the torture of female genital mutilation - an act that forced him to leave the family home with his sister for nine months.

"I found his story incredibly powerful," said Mr Monbiot.

"He made a stand on something he felt very strongly about because it affected his family."

Protests and demonstrations

Mr Ebie explained in his entry that when he was growing up, he had been made to believe that female circumcision was an "act of virtue" for woman, and thus obligatory for every girl.

Indeed, his two older sisters had already undergone the practice.

Woman undergoing female circumcision
Female circumcision is widespread in parts of Africa
But after hearing it condemned on a national radio debate, he approached his parents with reasons why his younger sister should not also undergo mutilation.

"They cursed my approach and refused my every word," he recalled.

"I was desperate and restless because my Dad assured me they would soon mutilate my kid sister for she's come of age."

Soon afterwards, Mr Ebie and his sister fled to a nearby city, where they stayed for nine months until one of their older sisters arrived and asked them to come home.

"My father had visited the council of elders to complain about the practice and how he lost his only son because he was trying to free the sister," he said.

"Tongue-tied elders could now speak out. The youths protested and demonstrated at the palace.

"When our Fon [king] saw that it was inevitable, he put a stop to it. Everyone was relieved especially the girls."

Mr Monbiot pointed out that in standing up against female genital mutilation, Mr Ebie was standing up against centuries of tradition.

"It's a problem that can only be addressed by people taking a stand and saying: 'Whatever the tradition might say, this is wrong and we will not submit to it.'"


It was also significant that, as a man, Mr Ebie had "stood up for the women in his family and for a man in West Africa, that in itself was a strong decision to take."

As the winner of the competition, Mr Ebie will receive a solar-powered wind-up radio.

Map of Cameroon showing location of Mbemi
The runners-up included Chima Uwah Ogbuh, who took on unions charging illegal fees to market traders in Benin, South African Geoffrey Neilson, who took a stand against compulsory military training as he felt it conflicted with his Christian beliefs, and Canadian Helen Manning, who fought for and got a life-saving operation for her daughter Helen, who had been born with holes in her heart.

Mr Monbiot said that it was a very close call and that all the entries had been of an extremely high standard.

"In all cases they'd paid a high personal cost - but what's also great about these stories is that the cost has been vindicated; they have come out on top," he said.

"They are heart-warming stories about how the human will can triumph in all sorts of circumstances against terrible oppression of all different kinds."

Call to end female circumcision
24 Nov 06 |  Middle East
'I had female circumcision'
13 May 04 |  Health
Female circumcision law extended
26 May 05 |  Scotland


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