UNFPA addresses the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) not only because of its harmful impact on the reproductive and sexual health of women, but also because it is a violation of women's fundamental human rights. Targeted messages about the dangers of FGC are directed to parents, teachers and community leaders through various communication channels. Another important target of communications and other activities are midwives, who are the main practitioners of FGC. To build support among this group, projects to eradicate FGC often offer an alternative income-generating component to help practitioners maintain their livelihoods. UNFPA also supports policy and legal reforms, as well as research about the scope and the consequences of the practice.
Starting in 1995, members of the Sabiny Elder's Association and clan leaders in Uganda's Kapchorwa district were sensitized on the harmful effects of FGC by the Reproductive, Educative and Community Health Programme (REACH). The programme offers information, education and communication activities that address policy makers, health professionals, parents and adolescents. It stresses that practices can change without compromising cultural values, and promotes ceremonies that mark the passage into adulthood with dancing and symbolic gift giving, but without the actual cutting.
The Sabiny Elders themselves proposed replacing FGC with symbolic gift-giving and other festivities. They also told members of their community of the harmful effects of FGC. Between 1994 and 1996, FGC declined by 36 per cent. Currently, this innovative and culturally sensitive approach is being replicated in other countries, such as Mali.
Another initiative, in Sudan, enlists groups of volunteers who work within their own communities to raise awareness about FGC. These ‘Circles of Friends’ talk with their community members on various reproductive health issues, especially all forms of harmful traditional practices. The volunteers in the Circles of Friends come from within the community itself. They are therefore well aware of the cultural setting, the existing norms and attitudes, and are thus the most acceptable and credible persons to disseminate reproductive health information, especially when it pertains to sensitive issues such as FGC.