Dispatch

18 October 2011

International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Aims to Accelerate Change

NAIROBI, Kenya — “This initiative will improve the lives, health and dignity of women and girls in Africa,” said Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme that aims for the abandonment of the practice in a generation.

She was speaking at the opening of the first international conference on research, healthcare and preventive measures related to FGM/C, which opened here on Monday.

Each year, more than three million communities in African countries are engaged in group discussion, role playing, theatre, poetry and song about the issue female genital mutilation/ cutting, she added. Community dialogue has proven to be a key strategy in empowering communities to decide for themselves to abandon the practice, thus creating a new social norm.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C was established in 2008 and has activities in 15 African countries. It promotes and supports a multidisciplinary, comprehensive, coordinated and coherent approach at all levels which are required for achieving abandonment of FGM/C worldwide.

While the prevalence of FGM/C is declining in many countries, this conference aims to accelerate change by analyzing the results of various approaches. Policy makers, along with participants from UN agencies, research, academia and NGOs are reviewing existing research about the efficacy of community-based interventions against the practice. They are also identifying knowledge gaps about the health issues related to FGM/C.

Toward this end, the joint programme is developing partnerships with African universities and creating a network platform for researchers based in African countries. The programme is also exploring the possibilities of establishing an African centre for research and leadership training for the abandonment of female genital mutilation.

The Conference is being hosted by the University of Nairobi, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, supported by UNFPA and the University of Sydney (Australia). Other collaborating institutions are the World Health Organization, the International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University (Belgium) and the University of Washington (USA).