Global Push to End Female Genital Mutilation

UNICEF Sierra Leone 2013/ Olivier Asselin
UNICEF Sierra Leone 2013/ Olivier Asselin

Freetown, 6 February 2013 (UNICEF/UNFPA)– On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announces that there are positive signs of progress in the global push to end FGM/C.

“It is encouraging that an increasing number of communities are coming together and agreeing publicly to end FGM/C”, says the UN Secretary-General.

While the practice is declining in most countries, it still remains widespread. It is estimated that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where FGM/C is most prevalent. If current trends continue, some 86 million young girls worldwide are likely to experience some form of the practice by 2030.

FGM/C includes all procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Health consequences can include severe bleeding, infections, infertility, incontinence as well as complications in childbirth.

“We should strive to preserve the best in any culture, and leave harm behind,” says the Secretary-General. “Just because a harmful practice has long existed does not justify its continuation.”

UNFPA and UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C continues to make progress in preventing these girls and future generations from being exposed to FGM/C. Since 2008, when the Joint Programme on FGM/C was established, nearly 10,000 communities in 15 countries, representing about 8 million people, have renounced the practice. Last year a total of 1,775 communities across Africa publicly declared their commitment to end FGM/C.

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin stresses that “Every young girl, regardless of where she lives, or her economic circumstances, has the right to fulfill her human potential, free from coercion, harm or violence. We can ensure that she does, and we must. The sustainable, equitable, inclusive future we all want depends on the actions we take today to ensure the dignity, health and well-being of every girl.”

In Sierra Leone, the incidence of FGM/C practice is one of the highest in the world. The 2013 Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey Preliminary Report revealed that 90% of women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone some form of circumcision.

UNICEF and UNFPA are working strategically with the Government of Sierra Leone and other partners to decrease the incidence of FGM/C through changes of social and cultural practices and by advocating for change.

“FGM/C is a practice that causes grave harm to women. We must continue to work closely with the Government and civil societies to empower girls and women and implement a rights-based culturally sensitive approach to ending FGM/C in Sierra Leone”, said UNICEF Country Representative Roeland Monasch.