International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there’s no medical reason for this to be done. It’s also known as female circumcision or cutting. FGM is child abuse and a violation of human rights, every girl and woman has the right to be protected from this harmful practice. On this Zero Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation Aidlink reflects on the progress made to end FGM across the world.
Globally, more than 200 million women and girls alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. Despite remarkable progress over the past 25 years ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, reaching the SDG target 5.3 on the elimination of all harmful practices including FGM by 2030 will be difficult, if not impossible.
Hundreds of millions of women today still do not have access to affordable, high quality health services. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively and disproportionately affected girls and women; facing a variety of heightened risks such as gender based violence, early marriage and FGM. Recent analysis by UNFPA revealed that due to COVID-19 an additional 13 million girls may be forced into marriage and 2 million more girls may be subjected to FGM between now and 2030.
Kenya is home to 4 million girls and women who have experienced FGM. Overall, 21 per cent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have undergone the practice, varying from 98 per cent in the North Eastern region to 1 per cent in the Western region. Girls and women from rural areas, living in poor households, with less education are at greater risk. Aidlink in Kenya support targeted interventions for nomadic pastoralist communities in Kajiado (Northern Kenya), focusing on tackling negative cultural norms such as gender based violence, early marriage and FGM.
Gender inequalities in Kenya mean adolescent girls are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, to promote the elimination of FGM, a coordinated effort engaging whole communities which focus on human rights, gender equality and removing barriers to education, is one of the best ways to reduce FGM. Families do not recognise education as a right, nor its value, particularly for girls. Students are unaware of their rights and legal protections, leaving them vulnerable to harmful norms including FGM and early marriage.
A primary focus of Aidlink is to adopt this approach, protect and promote the rights of all, and ensure a healthier and more equitable world. We work with the most marginalised communities to ensure they have access to education. By building communities’ resilience, capabilities and capacity to support girls and reducing social, cultural and environmental barriers to education, more girls will attend school, learn and thrive.