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 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 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'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 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.
"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.
"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.
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)