Voices of Resilience​

Fatuma, Ethiopia

An additional 2 Million Girls are at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030 due to COVID-19

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a practice rooted in gender inequalities that rests on the shakiest of foundations of faulty beliefs, perceived obligations and inferred expectations, tied together in a durable knot. It endangers the health of women and girls and can lead to long-term physical, psychological and social consequences. It also restricts them from realizing their rights and potential in health, education and income.

In 2018, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates showed that 68 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation by 2030. Yet, the shadow pandemic caused by COVID-19 has left millions of girls and women vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Due to COVID-19, an additional two million girls are projected to be at risk of female genital mutilation by 2030.


We will end Female Genital Mutilation in our Generation


"Cutting is not for the girl child and it is not in the bible"


Tabitha and her family are devout Christians who participate in programmes to learn about the harmful realities of female genital mutilation. Despite enormous pressure from their community, they believe that there is no religious requirement for this practice and have supported Tabitha’s participation in alternative rites of passage. Tabitha, whose educational peer group has dwindled significantly as other girls have undergone female genital mutilation, married, and left school, would like to continue her education in an environment that is supportive of abandonment.

"I am a role model. Some years back, my parents talked to me about female genital mutilation and the harmful effects, and I accepted, and I said that there is no way that I will be cut.

When the cutting season [was] reached, the community members told me that I have to be cut. I refused and I told them that cutting is not for the girl child and it is not in the bible."

Tabitha, Kenya (15 years old)

"I will never do that to my daughters"


Eman learned about female genital mutilation when her mother joined a community education programme and brought her lessons home. Together, they discovered that not only is there no religious requirement for the practice, but that it is harmful for the medical and psychosocial health of women, their communities, and their children. Now that she understands this, she is committed to sharing the knowledge with her friends and, most importantly, the next generation of daughters.

"I will never do that to my daughters."

Eman, Egypt (17 years old)

"I will not stop fighting until there is 0 FGM"


Latty’s work to abandon female genital mutilation and child marriage, to which it is often linked, was inspired by her mother, who told her about a childhood friend who had haemorrhaged to death after being cut. As Latty sees it, girls who are victims of child marriage never get the chance to finish school, decide whom they want to marry, or when to get pregnant. She has been praised for her work but also challenged as to why she thinks that someone of her age can do anything. Despite that, she intends to keep fighting.

"I will not stop fighting until there is 0 FGM in Burkina Faso, 0 child marriage, 0 early pregnancy."

Latty, Burkina Faso (14 years old)

"I'm proud that [my mother is] standing up for all these things that have occurred to her"


Insiya, whose mother was born in India and underwent female genital mutilation when she was seven years old, grew up in the United States and was unaware of the prevalence of cutting within her Bhora community. Recently, her mother explained the concept to her daughter and told her that this tradition would not be continued within their family. Insiya, who sees herself as part of a new generation of women, is very happy that her mother is fighting for an end to female genital mutilation.

"I'm really proud that my mom has decided to pursue this issue. And make an active effort to help stop it after it's hurt her so badly.

I am really happy that this has not happened to me and I'm proud that [my mother is] standing up for all these things that have occurred to her."

Insiya, United States (14 years old)

"I try to share what I have learned [...] and correct any misconception"


Haneen is a member of Youth Peer Education Network (YPEER) Egypt and a young advocate of girls' empowerment. She is very active in her community, raising awareness against female genital mutilation and its harmful effects. She has learnt so much through her work with YPEER.

"Not all my school mates are educated on FGM. I try to share what I have learned from YPEER and correct any misconception they may have."

Haneen, Egypt (15 years old)

"We are working day and night to stop female genital mutilation"


Fatuma understands that female genital mutilation makes it very difficult to have sexual intercourse, become pregnant, and safely deliver a baby. Too often, she says, mothers have extended labor and are forced into a Caesarean section delivery, which may not be supported by local medical resources and lead to maternal and infant mortality.

Fatuma believes that female genital mutilation is practiced because people do not understand its true effects on the body and is pleased to say that with intensive discussion and education, her community has declared the abandonment of female genital mutilation.

"We are working day and night to stop female genital mutilation... Our mothers and grandmothers were facing [its] challenges for many decades and now we are free from it."

Fatuma, Ethiopia (Teenager)

"I don't want to undergo female genital mutilation so that I may accomplish my dream"


When Teresia was 11, her grandmother told her that it was time to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). With her mother’s support and that of the local police, Teresia was able to stay at a safe house that provides temporary refuge for girls during the cutting season. There, she has been able to continue her education without fear of cutting. Now that her mother has died, Teresia continues to be pressured by community members who would like her to be cut. One of Teresia’s biggest concerns is that FGM is often followed by early marriage and the sacrifice of education and career. For this reason, she works with other girls to stand for an end to these human rights abuses.

"I feel strong.

In my community, once [girls go] through female genital mutilation, they are ready to get married.

For me, I don't want to undergo female genital mutilation so that I may accomplish my dream... to be a great person in the future."

Teresia, Kenya (17 years old)

We will end Female Genital Mutilation in our Generation


After attending youth educational gatherings and watching a film on the harmful effects of FGM and early marriage, Ly became committed to an end of these practices. She decided to report any attempts of these abuses by using a free reporting hotline and became an advocate for the rights of girls. Ly and the girls in her group are supported by the village chief’s public declaration of abandonment, an effective way to move entire communities to a new social norm.

Ly, Burkina Faso (15 years old)

Female genital mutilation cannot forever withstand the harm it causes; the fact that it violates laws and human rights meant to protect women and girls; the resilience of survivors; and the moving voices of the young generation.


We refuse to cut our daughters


"I want to see change among my people"


Zahra is a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). She has two daughters, aged 15 and 4 years old, whom she refused to cut.

Zahra has been advocating for the abandonment of FGM since 2016, working with kebele [ward] members and youth association leaders. She speaks to her community members about the harms of FGM. Zahra wants her children, especially her daughters, to continue their education without getting married. She wants them to graduate from school, have a decent job and be self-sufficient.

"I want to see change among my people."

Zahra, Ethiopia (28 years old)

"Someone who experiences the pain can't be happy because she is affected physically"


Khadija is a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). She has one daughter who is 14 years old, whom she refused to cut.

Khadija is an advocate for the abandonment of FGM in her village. She and her peers decided to stop the harmful norm of FGM and abandon the practice after training sessions on the harms of FGM. Khadija believes in the power of media, such as radio or TV broadcasts, in reaching out to remote communities like Afar.

"You can tell the difference. Someone who experiences the pain can't be happy because she is affected physically."

Khadija, Ethiopia (30 years old)

"My flesh may have been taken away, but I can never give away my heart"


Abida is a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). She has one daughter who is 16 years old, whom she refused to cut.

Abida is an advocate for FGM abandonment in Afar village. She shares her experience as a survivor to show the physical and psychological impacts she had to endure after undergoing FGM, such as urinary problems, period pain, and the birth complications she is still suffering from. She also shares with the women in the village how FGM has taken away her sexual desire and urges them to stop this harmful practice.

"My flesh may have been taken away, but I can never give away my heart."

Abida, Ethiopia (35 years old)


In 2007, a United Nations interagency statement* called on governments, international and national organizations, civil society and communities to uphold the rights of girls and women and end female genital mutilation.

Today, a global movement, led by the voices of youth and survivors, requires all actors, including governments, international and national organizations, civil society and communities, advocates and media to unite in order to eliminate female genital mutilation, and thus achieve gender equality by 2030.

Photographers:

Photos in We will end Female Genital Mutilation in our Generation: Luca Zordan for UNFPA

Photos in We refuse to cut our daughters: Sara Elgamal for UNFPA


*The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has since been consolidated into UN Women.

We can no longer wait, we must UNITE, FUND and ACT to end female genital mutilation.

Join the online conversation this 6 February using #Act2EndFGM