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Scaling Up Strategies to Encourage Abandonment of FGM/C

23 July, 2013
Scaling Up Strategies to Encourage Abandonment of FGM/C
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting aims to accelerate changes in entrenced social norms that put some 30 million girls at risk of undergoing this harmful practice. Photo © Sheila McKinnon

Five years ago, UNFPA and UNICEF launched an ambitious Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Its aim: to end female genital mutilation and cutting — a traditional which remains deeply entrenched in more than 15 African countries— in a generation. Last year was a crucial year for the initiative: the 5-year programme was extended for another cycle and the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 67/146, which calls for intensified efforts toward the elimination of the practice.

The recently released Joint Programme Annual Report for 2012 recounts many of the emerging lessons from programmatic experiences across a wide variety of contexts.

"As our latest report documents, we are seeing winds of change sweeping over the region, from Senegal to Djibouti," said Nafissatou Diop, Coordinator of the Joint Programme. "For the last five years, we've been implementing and refining ten human rights-based and culturally sensitive strategies. We have found that success depending on fine-tuning the relative weight and mix of these strategies based on the cultural context. We will apply that learning as we scale up our programming to protect the rights and health of girls in 15 priority countries."

The Joint Programme's strategies are directed at engaging many sectors of society in overturning a social norm remained remarkably persistent in many African countries, despite its often dire consequences – including death, disability, sexual dysfunction and complications during childbirth – and various attempts to end it. But new strategies, which take a more nuanced, culturally sensitive approach are having an impact: recent analysis shows that in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM/C is concentrated, 36 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 have been cut, compared to an estimated 53 per cent of women aged 45 to 49. The Joint Programme aims to accelerate the change.

It does this by engaging many aspects as societies – from religious leaders and health workers to girls at risk and legislators. The report mentions young girls chanting for their future, compassionate religious leaders advocating for change from their pulpits and mimbars, brave elders breaking with tradition, undaunted advocates campaigning for adequate legislation and better enforcement; and proactive teachers, health and social workers speaking and supporting girls and women at risk.

The report also documents a number of specific achievements in 2012, including

  • Community dialogues that resulted in some 1,839 communities representing 6,337,912 individuals making collective declarations of their decision to abandon the practice
  • Some 10,538 media events encouraged public discourse around FGM/C, and 378 TV and radio journalists received relevant training
  • Nearly 730 religious edicts delinking FGM/C and religion were issued by religious leaders
  • All forms of FGM/C were banned in Somalia's constitution, adopted in mid-2012 – a great feat in a country where FGM/C is nearly universal
  • More than 3,000 judges, prosecutors, lawyers, magistrates, local leaders and members of civil society organizations were sensitized about laws prohibiting the practice of FGM/C which resulted in 220 legal actions
  • Health policies now include provisions on the treatment of FGM/C in nearly all the 15 programme countries
  • Nearly 3,144 health facilities offered integrated FGM/C prevention and care; 2,690 health workers were trained in treatment and 60 in prevention
  • The monitoring and evaluation at both the global and country levels has been improved with a focus in 2012 on building the capacity of those on the ground.

The report also notes a few trends – including medicalization of the practice and political conflict – that present challenges to continued progress in some countries.