A $44-million programme has been launched to reduce female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) by 40 per cent in 16 countries by 2015 and to end the harmful traditional practice within a generation.
Launched by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the initiative will encourage communities to abandon FGM/C by advocating and partnering with governments, religious leaders, reproductive health providers, media and civil societies; influencing laws and enforcement; and generating and sharing knowledge about why negative social norms persist and how they can be changed to improve the well-being of women and girls. It will involve many other partners.
The programme also aims to scale up promising community and national efforts and to develop a common, global framework for the progressive abandonment of the practice.
Annually, between 2 and 3 million women and girls are subjected to FGM/C, the partial or total removal of external female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. The practice, which affects 100-140 million women and girls across the world, violates their right to health and bodily integrity.
With a donation of about $3.5 million, Norway has become the first major donor to the joint initiative, which focuses on 16 African countries with high prevalence. Various forms of FGM/C have also been reported in parts of some Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Oman, Yemen, and among some Kurdish communities in Iraq. It is also practiced in immigrant communities around the world.
Speaking during a meeting with Norwegian Government officials in Oslo, Purnima Mane, UNFPA’s Deputy Executive Director (Programme), urged the international community to “do a better job to protect the millions of women and girls who are at risk every year. Ending female genital mutilation/cutting is important for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It will enhance the human rights of women and girls, contribute to their empowerment, improve maternal health and reduce child mortality”.
She stressed the urgency to eliminate FGM/C, especially in the light of such worrisome trends as: the increasing medicalization of the practice; the growing number of infants being cut to avoid complaints to law enforcement agencies; and, the rising trend towards less severe cuts instead of the total abandonment of the practice.
“Fighting this practice will strengthen the position of women and girls, improve maternal health and reduce child mortality,” Mr. Erik Solheim, Norway’s Minister for International Development, while pledging his country’s support to the campaign.