The term Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is the procedure in which partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or sex organs are permanently cut. FGM practices are often deep-rooted in a community’s culture and identity, traditional values, and social norms. Within communities that have practiced FGM over multiple generations, the significance of the practice often continues within the elder population as traditionally FGM is thought to be empowering, a celebration, cleansing of a woman and a prerequisite for marriage.
Although FGM is deemed to be a rite of passage and coming of age for young girls and women in certain communities, this practice does not carry any health benefits, in fact often quite the reverse. I can cause sexual health complications, mental illness, infertility and even death. The National Society for Prevention and Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC) short video shares FGM survivor’s personal accounts, the lifelong negative impacts from the cutting, and ideas going forward to promote the importance of grassroots initiatives, education and awareness rising to combat FGM practices for good.
From a social aspect, FGM is practiced due to gender inequality – it represents society’s control over women. It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women in the world today have gone through FGM, the majority in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries (source?). Woman Stats Project have developed a world map showing the prevalence of FGM at the global level. UNICEF’s FGM prevalence map shows the ‘percentage of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have undergone FGM by country’ in Africa and part of the Middle East. Across Africa, there is a high incidence of girls and women undergoing FGM, Somalia carries the highest prevalence rate of 98 percent, Followed by Guinea with 96 percent, and Djibouti with 93 percent (UNICEF, 2013). However, it is not just a problem in African and Asian nations, n England and Wales it is estimated that 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM.
The World Health Organisation has released a report ‘Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation’, defines the practice of FGM as a violation of the basic human rights of gender equality, and the right to life, freedom from torture and cruelty and non-discrimination based on sex.
In order to address FGM in the long term, both top down and bottom up approaches need to take place, combining grassroots and community-led initiatives to create behavioural change and ownership, with education programmes from governments and human rights groups education to empower and break social norms within these communities.
Despite these shocking statistics, in recent years there has been a vastly increased effort at the international level to stop FGM, in particular following the UN General Assembly Resolution Against FGM in 2012Within the new Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015, Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The SDG 5.3 aims to “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”. The UN Secretary General has stated that, “sustainable development demands full human rights for all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises an end to this practice”.
The United Nations declared the 6th February an International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, with this year’s theme being “Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.” With FGM predominately occurring in African countries, this strategy aims to change behaviour which has been ingrained over generations by educating women so that they feel empowered enough to end the practice.
At JAN Trust we provide workshops, raising awareness and support victims of FGM. Our campaign consists of workshops in schools, colleges, statutory agencies and community groups. In schools, the priority is to help both students and teachers detect cases of FGM, and know how to support victims. We provide training for practitioners including health professionals, social workers and the police in order to raise awareness about the practice, the law surrounding FGM as well as options and help available for victims.
In the last 4 years, we have delivered over 200 school sessions. We have worked with over 20,000 young people and practitioners across the UK and have worked in over 25 boroughs. Visit our website www.jantrust.org or Against FGM website to learn more about the work we do to campaign Against FGM.