UNITED NATIONS, New York— Almost 2,000 communities across Africa have abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in 2011. This brought the total number of communities renouncing the practice to 8,000 over the last few years, according to new findings by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“These encouraging findings show that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls and women,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, 6 February. “We call on the global community to join us in this critical effort. Together, we can end FGM/C in one generation and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives, and reach their potential.”
The new report, Key Results and Highlights 2011, was issued by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for the Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM/C. Set up in 2008, the initiative aims to end a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects and that violates girls’ and women’s human rights.
Each year, around 3 million girls and women—or some 8,000 girls each day—face the risk of mutilation or cutting. An estimated 130 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone the practice, mostly in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East.
The new highlights show that, with support from UNFPA and UNICEF, efforts against FGM/C have yielded encouraging results during 2011. Throughout Africa, more than 18,000 community education sessions were held, almost 3,000 religious leaders publicly declared that the rite should end, and more than 3,000 media features have covered the subject.
Consequently, almost 2,000 communities declared their abandonment of the practice during the year. Celebrations to voice such declarations were attended by government officials, Muslim imams, Catholic and Protestant priests, traditional village and clan leaders and thousands others in countries such as Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Senegal, Kenya and Somalia. Kenya’s parliament passed a bill prohibiting FGM/C; 13 Sudanese states have launched initiatives to abandon the practice; and more than 3,600 families with girls at risk in Egypt have come out against the practice. In addition, a West African fatwa against cutting was issued by religious leaders from Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Egypt.
The UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme on FGM/C speeds change through a culturally sensitive, human rights-based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice. That includes engaging all community groups, such as traditional and religious leaders, women, men and young girls themselves, in discussing the harms of the practice, while highlighting that it is not a religious requirement. The programme also supports legislation and policies against the practice.
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