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Ending FGM

Ending FGM

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FGM is ending…

Through the work of programmes that are based on education and empowerment. Bringing about a change in communities where FGC is practised involves a shift in social norms, and has to be felt throughout the entire community. This kind of change can come slowly at first, but once one community abandons the practice there is plenty of evidence to suggest that other communities follow, bringing about real change in a relatively short period of time.

The most important thing when trying to effect change in communities where FGM is carried out is to be non-judgmental and non-directive. Ending the practice is much more likely to happen when, instead of issuing directives, programmes open up a dialogue and a conversation that involves the entire community, including men and women, girls and boys, and religious and community leaders. This opening up of a conversation leads to self-directed questioning of the practice, so that eventually the community members begin to question the health and humanitarian issues surrounding FGM, which in turn leads ultimately to abandonment of the practice.

A big part of this comes from the acknowledgment that FGM is a constructed norm, and is not in fact, a useful or positive part of people’s lives or their communities. When a community publicly denounces the practice they are not only declaring to themselves, but to other communities, that they have abandoned FGM, which then helps in paving the way for other communities – especially those with which they regularly inter-marry – to do the same.

To learn more about the abandonment of FGM please read more about our work with our partner Tostan.



FGM could end within the next generation…

As stated by the UN. Here at Orchid Project we also believe that FGM can and should end within the next generation, and that this aim is entirely achievable. At this point in time there is more attention being paid to FGM at a local, regional, national, and international level than ever before. This momentum has built up gradually, but we have recently reached an unprecedented moment in the history of FGM.

The movement to end FGM within a generation has been inspired by the successful end to footbinding in China, which happened within 20 years. Where once footbinding was practically universal among some groups in the country, it is now non-existent, despite dating back to the tenth century. The fact that footbinding was also a social convention means that the movement to end FGC can utilise the same strategy to change social norms as a way to bring about an end to the practice of FGM.



For FGM to end…

There needs to be wider awareness of the issue itself and its scale and impact. Awareness leads to a better understanding of the practice, and a realisation that FGM needs to end. In turn stakeholders contribute to an environment and a movement that allows for the changes and progress needed in order to bring about an end to FGM.

For change to happen, it needs to happen most importantly at a community level. Communities must bring about this change themselves, and one of the ways this is most likely to happen is through human rights based education. There is also a need for health education and a community’s understanding of all the impacts of FGM whether physical, emotional, and mental is often crucial to their decision to abandon the practice, in addition to deeper understanding of their human rights. Health education alone is not enough, however, and should always be combined with human rights based education and an opening up of the conversation around religion where relevant.

FGM is not linked to any one religion, and while the influence of religious leaders in certain areas and regions is important to the successful end of the practice, it is also important to stress the fact that the procedure is not a religious requirement. Read more about FGC and religion here.

FGM is most likely to end when a community realises that it is not a positive tradition, and is in fact harmful. Where FGC is in decline it is often due to this combination of non-judgmental, non-directive education that is based in human rights, health, and awareness raising.



Over 12,000 communities have abandoned FGM…

According to the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme, with communities in countries such as Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Mali being at the forefront of this movement for change. Even in countries such as Somalia and Sierra Leone, where the rates of FGM are very high, attitudes towards the practice are changing. It is this shift that needs to be harnessed in order to bring about real change and an end to FGM

Since 1997, when the first community in Senegal declared their abandonment of FGM, over 5,500 villages in the country have followed suit. In fact, West Africa has led the way for change in the rest of the continent and throughout the world, providing other communities, regions, and countries with the encouragement needed to end FGC and change the lives of millions of girls worldwide. Since 1997, when the people of Malicounda Bambara, the first village to abandon, publicly declared their abandonment of FGM, other communities in Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali and the Gambia have all publicly declared their commitment to abandon the practice. For a deeper understanding of how change has come to over 7,700 communities in West Africa, learn more about our partner Tostan’s efforts in the area.