From Idrissa Ouedraogo, Gender Advisor, Senegal Sub-Regional Office, Africa Region, UNFPA
Female genital mutilation, also called female genital cutting (FGM/C), comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. FGM/C is widespread in many developing countries, and has spread to some immigrant communities in other parts of the world, such as Europe and North America. FGM/C is usually carried out on girls younger than 15 – sometimes during the first weeks of life. Occasionally, adult and married women are also subjected to the procedure. It is an extremely dangerous practice that harms the health of women and girls. Immediate consequences of FGM/C include severe pain, shock and even death. Long-term consequences range from HIV and fistula to emotional trauma. The medicalization of FGM/C is a violation of human rights that raises serious concerns. FGM/C affects between 100 and 140 million women and girls worldwide and three million girls are at risk of being cut annually.
UNFPA and UNICEF work jointly towards actively contributing to the accelerated abandonment of FGM/C, in specific areas of implementation within 17 countries, by 2012 in partnership with UN Agencies, UN Country Teams, national and decentralized Governments, donors and grant-making foundations, academic institutions and specialized consulting organisations, NGOs, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and the media.
In a bid to accelerate the abandonment process UNFPA and UNICEF have combined the right-based based approach with culturally sensitive approaches to sustain behaviour change towards FGM/C practice. Both agencies recognize that since FGM/C has a strong cultural value in many contexts, it is imperative to initiate dialogues with communities on the preservation of positive cultural values, whilst a policy of abandonment is pursued. Staff involved in FGM/C abandonment programmes must communicate effectively with religious and cultural leaders to ensure that the goals of the programme are not misinterpreted, as being a value judgment on the society or its culture. UNFPA also mobilizes people through culturally-sensitive approaches that enable community members, including adolescents, women, teachers and parents, to become involved in Behaviour Change Communication activities at grassroots level and hence contribute to change in attitudes towards the practice.
Related Publications: unfpa.org
Related Video: video.unfpa.org