Speed up Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation, Urges Amref Health Africa

A smiling woman in AfricaInternational Day against Female Genital Mutilation – February 6, 2015

The International Day against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as Female Genital Cutting, has been designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the dangers of the practice. FGM is the intentional invasive injuring of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It has been recognized as a severe violation of the rights of women and girls.

Female Genital Mutilation happens mainly in Africa (in 28 countries), and in a few countries in the Middle East. It has also been practiced on a small scale in South-East Asia and among certain ethnic groups in Central and South America as well as among immigrants in Europe.

It is estimated that 130 million women and girls have been affected. In addition to causing severe pain, FGM can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death. Some forms necessitate surgery later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. In some communities, repeated FGM, sometimes with stitching, is done following childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks. The practice is still widespread in spite of a global commitment following the 2002 UN Special Session on Children to end FGM by 2010.

The cutting is mostly done by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18 per cent of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and the trend towards medicalization is increasing. This constitutes a great threat to the abandonment of the practice.

While communities may justify it on various cultural and social grounds, it is harmful medically, is a violation of rights, and is illegal in many countries. It is for this reason that Amref Health Africa condemns it and calls upon governments and partners to increase efforts to eliminate it.

Amref Health Africa has implemented programmes to eliminate FGM since 2007, including regional programmes across East Africa and Ethiopia. Amref Health Africa’s innovative anti-FGM work, especially the community-led Alternative Rites of Passage, has been widely recognized as safe and acceptable to the community.

On this International Day against Female Genital Mutilation, Amref Health Africa renews its commitment to working hand-in-hand with governments, development partners and civil society organizations to:

  • Explore innovative ways of engaging the communities to accelerate the abandonment of FGM and to  inform programming in working with communities
  • Work hand-in-hand with relevant bodies and institutions to build skills of frontline health workers in dealing with the effects of FGM
  • Mobilize health workers against medicalization of FGM
  • Increase health education and health promotion among girls and women

Amref Health Africa realizes that governments are solely responsible for ensuring the right to health for their citizenry and commits to supporting the governments to meet this objective.

To that extent, Amref Health Africa urges governments as well as their development partners to meet the following obligations for accelerating the abandonment of FGM:

  1. Allocate adequate resources to support the abandonment of FGM and increase the empowerment of women and adolescents
  2. Ensure frontline workers are knowledgeable and skilled in the care of FGM-related complications
  3. Support the implementation of innovative approaches to engage communities towards abandonment of FGM
  4. Invest in research to understand the underlying factors that cause FGM to thrive