Sucesses in the Fight Against FGM

Posted on | maart 7, 2012 | No Comments

Across parts of Africa the following scene is played out on a daily basis. A young girl of only 4 to 12 years old is held down by while she struggles to break free and screams from the excruciating pain that is being inflicted upon her.  The image of a young girl being held down screaming in pain is enough for most to think something is wrong and something must be done to save this young child.  However when one adds that the abuse this young child is facing is even more gruesome and needlessly inflicted upon her- that of FGM.  However this is the fate of  some 8,000 girls a day, three million girls each year.

The practice known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Circumcision can be the partial or full removal of the external genitalia. FGM can often be fatal, especially when done in non-sanitary conditions and/or by non-medically trained persons. The fatal results of FGM can be caused by excessive bleeding, transmission of disease, or shock. The complications and the long-term effects of FGM can include; pain, infertility, difficulties in child birth, trouble with menstruation or urination, problems and extreme pain with intercourse, lack of sexual desire, no sexual stimulation, and mental illness.

I recently published the post, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Awareness Day Passes With Little Notice, highlighting that too little attention is given to the ending the practice across the globe.  The practice of FGM is deeply rooted in gender inequality and while it is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, it continues to thrive and effects more than 100 million women and girls worldwide.  While banning of the practice has increased over the years, it has not led to its removal, as many communities continue to practice FGM in the shadows.  Laws banning FGM are ineffective on their own, as the practice is deeply rooted in the culture or history. Thus laws prove futile without education and awareness.  However, a recent three year program has now begun to shine a light on success in eradicating FGM.

The European Union (EU) and UNICEF have established a program that has helped thousands of families, communities and countries change attitudes and end harmful traditional practices such as FGM in Africa.  The report on the EU-funded project shows that as a result of education and awareness raising, girls in thousands of communities in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Senegal and Sudan are no longer subjected to this practice.  The project was implemented by UNICEF, following EU funding of €3,991,000 over the period of 2008-2012, and  was conducted across the five African countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal ,and the Sudan.  The report, the Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the abandonment of FGM/C in five African countries, shows that FGM can be eliminated in communities when programs and policies seek to first address the complex social dynamics associated with the harmful practice and challenge established gender relationships, existing assumptions and stereotypes.

EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs stated that it is unacceptable that in the 21st century, this practice, which is a clear violation of human rights, is still taking place. Piebalgs said that by raising awareness on the dangers of FGM at grassroots level, the EU and UNICEF have helped to provide young women across Africa with an alternative, as well as given them the chance to become an active part of their own communities in the future.

The project’s successes included Senegal, where 28% of females aged 15-49 years old have undergone FGM, but today some 5,300 communities havew abandoned the practice. The report notes that this success places Senegal close to becoming the first country in the world to declare total abandonment of the practice, expected by 2015. In Egypt, where 91% of females under go FGM, the project has also noted some progress, as FGM appeared to be growing less common among younger age groups. The number of Egyptian families agreeing to abandon the practice also increased substantially: from 3,000 in 2007 to 17,772 in 2011. In Ethiopia, despite continually high rates of FGM, a decline was seen between 2000 and 2005, as rates dropped from 80% to 74%.

The report shows great hope in wining the fight against FGM, and for many it is long overdue. This report and program’s success is a model for others to follow as we work to end the needless suffering of women and girls across the globe.

Please see my previous posts on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)/Female Circumcision, such as: Is a Continental Ban Against Female Genital Mutilation on its Way in Africa?, Ending Female Genital Mutilation, Are we closer to an end for Female Genital Mutilation?, Female Genital Mutilation Continues in Senegal, Female Genital Mutilation in the UK, Egypt Makes Huge Strides in Putting an End to Female Circumcision, Girls Death in Burkina Faso Has Many Wondering If Laws are Enough! – for more background on the issue.  Please also see the World Health Organization (WHO) FGM Fact Sheet and The Female Genital Mutilation Education and Networking Project for more news and information on the long term consequences of FGM.

AUTHOR: Cassandra Clifford
URL: and
E-MAIL: Cassandra [at]


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