Never before has it been more urgent – or more possible – to end the practice of female genital mutilation, preventing immeasurable human suffering and boosting the power of women and girls to have a positive impact on our world.
The urgency can be seen in the numbers. New estimates reveal that in 2016 at least 200 million girls and women alive now have undergone some form of FGM. The numbers keep growing both because more countries are paying attention to FGM and collecting data – which represents good progress– and because progress in ending the practice is not keeping pace with population growth – which is not at all good. If current trends continue, more girls will be cut every year by 2030 than today owing to high fertility rates and youthful populations found in most communities where FGM is prevalent. And since the practice increases risks in childbirth, it causes harm to today’s girls as well as the next generation.
The potential for faster progress for success in eliminating FGM is also clear. This International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is the first since the visionary 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all countries with a pledge to leave no one behind. The Sustainable Development Goals contain a specific target calling for an end to FGM. When this practice is fully abandoned, positive effects will reverberate across societies as girls and women reclaim their health, human rights and vast potential.
Today I raise my voice and call on others to join me in empowering communities which themselves are eager for change. I count on governments to honour their pledges with support from civil society, health providers, the media and young people. My Every Woman Every Child movement offers a partnership platform for action.
I am encouraged by the rising chorus of young voices demanding an end to the practice – and I echo their principled insistence on upholding and defending human rights for all. I am inspired by the brave Maasai warriors and cricket stars, such as Sonyanga Ole Ngais, who use their position and influence to demand protection for their sisters. I am heartened by the work of health providers, such as Edna Adnan, founder of the Maternity Hospital in Somaliland that bears her name, who insists that every single health worker under her be well-prepared to tackle FGM. And I am grateful for the engagement of The Guardian, which is expanding its work on ending FGM to Nigeria, and to so many other media outlets and reporters shining a spotlight this issue.
We can end FGM within a generation, bringing us closer to a world where the human rights of all every woman, child and adolescent are fully respected, their health is protected, and they can contribute more to our common future.