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Female genital mutilation (FGM) is rooted in gender inequality and the social norms that uphold it.‬ #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear three fearless women speak from the heart about ending FGM: unf.pa/APieceOfMe #EndFGM
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is rooted in gender inequality and the social norms that uphold it.‬ #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear three fearless women speak from the heart about ending FGM: unf.pa/APieceOfMe #EndFGM
‪No matter what they took when she suffered female genital mutilation (FGM), she didn’t lose her will to live.‬ #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear Abida’s moving story: unf.pa/Abida #EndFGM‬
‪No matter what they took when she suffered female genital mutilation (FGM), she didn’t lose her will to live.‬ #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear Abida’s moving story: unf.pa/Abida #EndFGM‬
When communities decide to abandon female genital mutilation (FGM) once and for all, change begins.‬ #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear Zahra’s inspiring story: unf.pa/Zahra #EndFGM
When communities decide to abandon female genital mutilation (FGM) once and for all, change begins.‬ #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear Zahra’s inspiring story: unf.pa/Zahra #EndFGM
The choice to end female genital mutilation (FGM) is both personal & collective. Its impact lasts for generations. #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear Khadija’s uplifting story: unf.pa/Khadija #EndFGM
The choice to end female genital mutilation (FGM) is both personal & collective. Its impact lasts for generations. #SeeAPieceOfMe to hear Khadija’s uplifting story: unf.pa/Khadija #EndFGM

A PIECE OF ME

A Piece of Me

The end of female genital mutilation comes from the heart of a community

Abida

Zahra

Khadija

“My flesh may have been taken away, but I can never give away my heart.”

“I want to see change among my people.”

“What I want is to live in peace within myself and with my people.”

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All videos and still images © Sara Elgamal for UNFPA

“My flesh may have been taken away, but I can never give away my heart.”

Abida

“My main job is to teach about the harms of FGM.”

I inform people about my condition. I always had urinary problems. When I got my monthly period it was very painful. I used to feel like throwing up. I used to vomit, and it was a very terrible time for me. Then I gave birth, and to this day I still suffer from the pain.
I used to ask my mother why she did this to me. I questioned her about why she let me suffer so much. I promised myself that I wouldn’t cut my daughter.
I teach women and girls about the harm of FGM. I tell them that it harms you physically and takes away your sexual desire. FGM took away my sexual desire, and it would do the same to my daughter.
I want to say to the world: “Stop FGM, it has harmed me and damaged my life. If you don’t stop it, you will witness the suffering.”

Like most women in her community, Abida underwent female genital mutilation when she was seven days old.

Female genital mutilation, which involves injuring or altering the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, is practised all around the world, affecting 200 million women and girls alive today. It is a violation of human rights that stems from – and perpetuates – gender inequality.

When girls are cut, they are at risk of haemorrhage, infection and other grave complications that can be fatal. Survivors carry lifelong physical and psychological scars, and face heightened risks of dying in childbirth.

In Ethiopia, as in many places, the practice has declined in recent decades – affecting 65 per cent of girls and women today, down from 80 per cent in 2000. The Afar region, where Abida lives, is one of two regions where prevalence remains very high, currently 91 per cent. The region’s maternal mortality rate is five times the national average.

But here, too, change is under way. It comes from the heart of communities, driven by women like Abida Dawud, Zahra Mohammed Ahmed and Khadija Mohammed, who are taking action to spare their daughters and granddaughters the pain and loss they have endured.

“I want to see change among my people.”

Zahra

“I work in the
kebele
area to stop FGM, child marriage and rape.”

We have been doing this work for three years now. We conducted a meeting, including
kebele
[ward] members and youth association leaders. It was inaugurated by the chairman. After him, the leader of the association spoke, and then the tribal leaders, and myself.
We had a big argument over it. The scholar said that it’s a practice used in the time of the Pharaohs and not of Islam at all. They said that it had nothing to do with Islam and neither does it belong to the Christians.
Gradually parents started understanding that they were killing their own daughters. Now they speak about the
kadi
[judge] of the
kebele
: his daughter, granddaughter and niece are not cut.
I didn’t let my daughter be cut because I have seen how much suffering it brings about. I will not do that to my own child.
I want my children, especially my daughters, to continue their education without getting married. I want them to graduate from school, have a decent job and be self-sufficient.

In Ethiopia, most people think female genital mutilation should stop.

Nearly 8 out of 10 girls and women and 9 out of 10 boys and men are opposed to the practice. But because it is rooted in social norms – and upheld by social pressure – it can persist even as more and more people believe that it should end.

Female genital mutilation ends when entire communities commit to abandoning the practice.

Getting to that point takes work at many levels – from policies and laws to education, health care and social services, to dialogues among local leaders, religious scholars and community members.

The process is grounded in respect for each community’s culture, building upon its values and engaging its leaders to create durable change from within.

It is a strategy that works. In Afar, prevalence has fallen sharply in areas where the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation has supported these many-layered, holistic interventions – down to 31 per cent in some districts. Six districts have made collective, public declarations abandoning the practice.

“What I want is to live in peace within myself and with my people.”

Khadija

“You can tell apart the woman who has been cut from the uncut one.”

You can tell the difference. Someone who experiences the pain can’t be happy because she is affected physically.
It was our culture in our area, and we are trying to put an end to it, step by step. This has been possible through training.
The cutter is a woman and the one being cut is a woman. It is passed down to your daughter – and instead of continuing the legacy, we decided to stop it. After numerous trainings, we understood that what we were doing was a mistake. You shouldn’t hurt your own child with your own hands; you should treat them well.
Whether it is broadcast on the radio or television or spoken by Afars, the message is: “Stop FGM.” It existed before us and also during our time. Not only was it done to us, we were practising it, too.
Unless we stop this, the next generation might also practise FGM. We must stop it here.

In Afar and across the globe, survivors like Khadija, Zahra and Abida are driving change in their communities.

For their daughters' generation, the end of female genital mutilation, child marriage and other harmful practices opens up new prospects for health, education and empowerment.

And this puts ending female genital mutilation at the very heart of what makes sustainable development possible – a link recognized by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 25 years ago.

This year, the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 offers the chance for a renewed global commitment to end harmful practices that perpetuate gender inequality and violate the human rights of women and girls.

The urgency is as great as ever. Female genital mutilation is declining, but not fast enough.

Today, in the 30 countries that systematically collect data on the practice, it affects about 1 in 3 girls aged 15-19, down from about 1 in 2 in the mid-1980s. But in the countries where it is most prevalent, populations are growing – and along with them, the number of girls at risk.

At current rates, 68 million girls worldwide will be cut by 2030. It is time to step up action to eliminate female genital mutilation.