Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) refers to several different harmful practices involving the cutting of the female genitals. It is estimated that about three million girls, the majority under 15 years of age, undergo the procedure every year. FGM/C is a practice deeply rooted in tradition and persists because it is a social convention upheld by underlying gender structures and power relations.
UNFPA and UNICEF, co-sponsors of the Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, aim to see communities that continue the practice abandon it in a generation. Key to their success is using a human rights-based approach to encourage communities to act collectively, so that girls or their families who opt out do not jeopardize marriage prospects or become social outcasts.
This approach has led some 8,000 communities across Africa to abandon the practice, usually through some form of public declaration. Media campaigns, alliances with religious or traditional leaders, and legal actions are other of the strategic approaches the programme supports.