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Communities Key to Ending Female Genital Mutilation

Kadi works with her sisters in Mali to raise awareness and educate her community about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.
Kadi works with her sisters in Mali to raise awareness and educate her community about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.
February 6, 2014

WASHINGTON - Governments must actively engage communities in fighting the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), says Plan International.

Communities -- particularly girls, women, and boys -- are key to ending the practice that continues to blight the lives of millions of girls and women across the world. It is estimated that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone genital mutilation or cutting. Of these, more than 100 million are believed to be in Africa alone.

Despite international and local legislations, the practice continues with 30 million girls feared to be at risk of being cut in the next decade, according to UNICEF.

“It is clear that having strict laws is not enough if they are not robustly enforced. Equally important is that communities, particularly adolescents, must be mobilized to openly discuss the practice and abandon it,” said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “We have succeeded in ending the practice in scores of villages by raising awareness and working with local communities. Changing mindsets does not cost a lot of money; it requires serious efforts and active engagement.”

Every year, thousands of girls are subjected to FGM in West Africa. A national health survey in Mali in 2006 showed that more than 85% of all women between 15 and 45 years in the country had been excised.

A study conducted by Plan Mali in December 2010, in its intervention areas, showed that the overall prevalence of FGM was nearly 50% for girls between 0-5 years and over 77% for girls between 6 and 14 years. The report also found that more than half of fathers and more than one-third of mothers in areas where the project against FGM was implemented wanted to maintain the practice. Plan and its partners have set a target to reduce the prevalence of FGM by 10% by June 2015 among girls up to 14 years.

In Guinea-Bissau, where about half of girls become victims of genital mutilation, Plan is working towards enforcement of laws banning the practice and raising awareness among communities as part of its multi-pronged approach.

“We are gradually opening the debate on FGM in communities where it was until very recently considered a taboo,” says Allassane Drabo, Country Director in Plan Guinea-Bissau.

Plan is using "Child to Child" and "Child to Parent" approaches, which allows girls to raise awareness and promote their rights among themselves and with their parents using methods that are creative and do not offend people’s sensitivities. The messages are communicated using acting, drawing, poetry, and songs.

“This has helped girls to express themselves in public and share their experiences without fear and embarrassment,” said Madina Bocoum Daff, FGM Project Manager for Plan in Mali. “A woman like me who has undergone excision knows the trauma and life-long impact it brings on one’s mind and body. The pain and suffering I have endured and the childhood I lost cannot be reversed. But, with determination and concerted action we can save hundreds of thousands of children from this inhumane practice,” she concluded.

About Plan International USA

Plan International USA is part of the Plan International Federation, a global organization that works side by side with communities in 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children and their families. Plan works at the community level to develop customized solutions and ensure long-term sustainability. Our solutions are designed up-front to be owned by communities for generations to come and range from clean water and health care programs to education projects and child protection initiatives. For more information, please visit www.PlanUSA.org.

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