Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
While new cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt have significantly reduced in recent years, it remains a very serious issue. The practice remains common, especially in Southern Egypt, where poverty and illiteracy remain at much higher rates than the national average.
FGM can lead to problems with menstruation, intercourse, and childbirth; it causes severe pain and can result in hemorrhage, tetanus, infection, infertility, cysts and abscesses, urinary incontinence, and in some cases can lead to maternal deaths. The psychosexual effects of FGM (i.e., a girl being cut by those she loves) are also often harsh and lifelong.
In 2008, Egypt passed a law criminalizing FGM with punishments ranging from three months to two years in prison, and a fine of 1,000-5,000 Egyptian pounds (US$166-833).
Plan International in Egypt has been implementing FGM projects since 2006. For Plan, getting communities to stop FGM requires a deep, all-encompassing approach focused on reversing existing community peer pressure and other violations of girls’ rights such as early marriage and dropping out of school. The project also supports advocacy efforts and addresses the socio-cultural roots of these harmful practices.
FGM abandonment is also related to the economic, social, and political status of women and girls. Therefore, Plan's approach includes integration of economic empowerment programs like Village Savings and Loans Associations (women’s savings and loans groups); Aflatoun (child rights and financial literacy); and REFLECT (literacy groups).
In Assiut, Plan is using the "Arab Women Speak Out" awareness curriculum, which includes empowerment sessions on FGM, personal/household hygiene, and early marriage, as well as vocational training. By December 2011, just in Assiut, over 1,000 women had completed about 12 to 36 hours of empowerment sessions. Sessions aim to help groups of women cope with the local culture, especially in villages where people like to share their experiences, feelings, and concerns.
In one of the group graduations in the conservative Blayza village, women signed a banner declaring: “We women, girls, men, and boys declare that we are completely convinced that FGM and early marriage cause harm. We totally refuse these practices."
Sit el Kol, 48, said, “Instead of practicing FGM on girls, we should raise them up properly."
Om Ahmed, 35, said, “I convinced my brother not to let his daughter get married at an early age."
Fatma Ali, 40, said, “I got married when I was young. I did not know how to take responsibility or to look after my children. While participating in the sessions, I received good information on how to properly manage my life. We also talked about early marriage and, consequently, I decided to apply this to my family by helping my daughter finish her education and not to marry her at an early age."