Still a lot to be done as the world marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Genital mutilation is a problem. To stop this, the only solution is awareness and we need to be organised at district level and sub-district level to stop the action, save the children and give birth safely.”
(Agro-pastoralist in Marsabit, Kenya, mother of five)
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 90 million women in Africa are estimated to have undergone FGM. At least 28 countries in Africa still practice FGM; the percentages range from as low as 5 per cent in Uganda to over 90 per cent in Somalia. (WHO factsheet no. 241 updated October 2013).
FGM has long-term physical and psychological effects and, as poorly trained practitioners in unsanitary conditions often undertake the practice, it also increases the immediate health risks to women and girls undergoing the procedure.
The issue of FGM was raised when ACORD conducted 45 citizen-driven workshops in 13 different countries across the continent. In six of these countries, ACORD held workshops specifically targeting women's issues and concerns. The idea was to harness the power of the African citizen - to privilege their position as agents in their own development. The workshops triggered debate and discussion in some of the most remote and marginalised communities in Africa today, with citizens reflecting on the challenges they faced, and their ideas for how they want to see change take place. (link to the Africa women post-2015 publication and the Africa in 2030 publication)
International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM: Kenyans take Heart, Even the US Overcame FGM!
In discussions over how violence affects their lives, some participants explicitly referred to FGM. In societies where FGM prevalence is high, the perception is that women and girls who have undergone FGM are more feminine and clean, thereby increasing the stigma of girls who have not undergone the ritual. This is despite the stigma that still abounds in African communities concerning the issue, underlining its importance to those who spoke out. Although legal provisions and enforcement are important, participants strongly argued that awareness and social attitudes are the key factors undermining efforts to address the problem.
Women expressed concerns about both the immediate and long-term effects of violence and had a clear understanding that the changes that were needed were far-reaching. These included working with communities and official institutions to sensitise them on the effects of violence, to addressing legal and structural barriers to justice and for victims to receive adequate support and reparations.