This generation could be the last that has to go through female genital cutting

On the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, this is a guest post by Nafissatou J Diop Ph.D, coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C

At a recent meeting, I was trying to get across the impact of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). I ended up using this example: “The girl who undergoes FGM/C is the same girl who is taken out of school early to marry. And this is the same girl who dies before she reaches age 20, giving birth to her third child.”

To me, this sums up the chain of effects that happens as a result of female genital mutilation/cutting. It is something that impacts a girl throughout her entire life and at every choice she makes – be it a choice around education, marriage, reproductive health and childbirth.

In childbirth, for example, women and girls who have been cut are at much higher risk of haemorrhage and infection and often require a great deal of repair work to their genital organs.

Female genital mutilation/cutting is often a taboo area that gets very little attention. And yet from reading that quote above, you can see how we cannot afford to keep looking away.

Many people have been working hard to end FGM/C for many years now, but recently, we feel that there has been a massive shift. We’re delighted to report that over 6,000 communities in Africa have chosen to end the practice. We’re also delighted that this number is growing.

There is a programme now running in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and it has seen real results. We have seen prevalence rates fall from 80% to 74% in Ethiopia, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Egypt from 97% to 91%. But there is still a long way to go.

The success behind the recent figures lies in the collective abandonment of FGM/C. There is now a culturally sensitive approach, based on dialogue and social networking, which leads to abandonment within one generation. Because the programme is anchored in human rights, it allows participants to understand better the choices they are making.

Crucially, it involves all groups within a community, including religious leaders, men and young girls themselves. Rather than condemn FGM/C it encourages collective abandonment, which tends to bring about a community’s voluntary renunciation.

Sunday 6 February is the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and UNFPA and UNICEF are renewing their commitment to put an end to this practice. What is more, we believe that FGM/C can be abandoned in one generation. This would help millions of girls and women live a healthier, fuller live.

But we need help still. Three million girls a year are still at risk of being cut in Africa alone. We need to ensure that the success happening on the ground at community level is matched by a commitment from everyone. We are reaffirming our commitment to abandoning FGM/C and believe that we owe it to everyone affected to do this as quickly as possible.

Please do all you can to raise awareness about this.

This generation could be the last that has to go through female genital cutting. What a gift that could be to the women of the world.