(HN, February 7, 2011) - Over 6,000 communities have chosen to abandon the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), according to a joint United Nations programme designed to eliminate this practice, and the number is growing.
“We are working in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and have seen real results - the years of hard work are paying off with FGM/C prevalence rates decreasing,” said Nafissatou Diop, Coordinator of the joint programme run by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80 per cent to 74 per cent, in Kenya from 32 per cent to 27 per cent, and in Egypt from 97 per cent to 91 per cent. There is still a lot of work to do.”
Three million girls face FGM/C every year in Africa and worldwide, and up to 140 million women and girls have already undergone the practice. Research indicates that mothers and grandmothers of women have enormous influence over their decisions on whether to put their daughters through the dangerous procedure. In countries such as Egypt, the procedure is often administered by women with no medical credentials.
It is little wonder then that experts have concluded that FGM/C is a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects.
In some countries, the influence of religious and clan leaders, local government officials and former circumcisers has brought a remarkable reduction in female cutting. Some Muslim scholars have called for banning FGM and for legislation criminalizing the practice.
Last year, a 13-year-old girl died after undergoing FGM in a public hospital in Egypt - even though the procedure had been made illegal since 2008.
“We must break the wall of silence that surrounds this issue and step up our national campaign to prevent the practice being passed on to the next generation”, Egyptian Minister of Family and Population Mushira Khattab said last year. “Our target is to make it clear that the practice will not be tolerated in Egypt.”
The UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme, set up in 2008, encourages communities to collectively abandon FGM/C - it is also known as positive deviance. It uses a culturally sensitive approach, including dialogue and social networking, leading to abandonment within one generation. The programme is anchored in human rights and involves all groups within a community, including religious leaders and young girls themselves. Rather than condemn FGM/C, it encourages collective abandonment to avoid alienating those that practice it and instead bring about their voluntary renunciation.
To mark the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, UNFPA and UNICEF are renewing their commitment to put an end to the practice, and call on the global community to join in this critical effort. They also believe that FGM/C can be abandoned in one generation, which would help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives.
“Three years into the programme, more than 6,000 communities in Ethiopia, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Gambia, Guinea and Somalia have already abandoned FGM/C,” according to a joint statement.
“Social norms and cultural practices are changing, and women and men in communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls. UNFPA and UNICEF are working with partners to end this harmful practice in one generation and we believe that reaching this goal is possible.”
FGM/C refers to the removal of all or part of the female genitalia. Despite global efforts to promote abandonment of the practice, FGM/C remains widespread in many developing countries, and has spread to other parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, where some immigrant families have now settled. The majority of girls who have undergone the practice live in 28 countries in Africa and Western Asia.
- UN, HUMNEWS staff