Zero Tolerance to FGM Day 2023

  • Date: 02/02/2023
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

This coming Monday, 6th February, is UN day of zero tolerance to FGM 2023. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights issue.  It’s a form of violence against women and girls. It violates women’s and girls’ rights to a life of freedom, dignity, and equality. Through this blog we will explore what is FGM, how the practice is coming to an end, and what ActionAid is doing to end the practice. 

What is FGM? 

FGM is also known as female circumcision. It is the partial or full cutting of a girl’s clitoris and labia, for non-medical reasons. 

The reasons for practising FGM are complex. It is a practice that goes back 2000 years, and it isdeeply embedded in some social, economic, and political structures. FGM pre-dates major faiths and is not required by any one religion.  

FGM is illegal in many countries, including Ireland. But laws are not always well-enforced and not always known about. 

Ending FGM 

A lot of progress has been made over the past two decades to end FGM. Global rates of FGM prevalence have fallen everywhere, and particularly dramatically in East Africa. A 2018 study showed the number of girls undergoing FGM has fallen from 71.4% in 1995, to 8% in East Africa in 2016.  

Feminist activists and grassroots organisations in affected communities drove the progress on ending FGM.

Tragically, the severe drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa, fuelled by climate change, is now reportedly causing levels of child marriage and FGM to rise again. However, we now know what works to end the practice. And there is more political will and investment in stopping it. And so, we believe that we, along with women’s rights groups and local organisations, can still end this practice within a generation. To do this, we need to work with whole communities to establish an open dialogue and change attitudes and behaviours.  

What ActionAid is doing to end FGM 

ActionAid supports feminist activists and grassroots organisation. We also provide direct support to girls and women escaping violence through our safe spaces and safe houses. In addition, we work closely with community and religious leaders to support them to speak out and influence others so that eventually whole communities say no to FGM. 

Through our Irish Aid-funded Women’s Rights programme we are working to end the practice in Kamuthe, northern Kenya. Many women in the community live in poverty and have no control over resources. To break the cycle of poverty and violence there was a need for systemic change. And so, ActionAid engaged with duty bearers, women, cultural and religious leaders on the importance of preventing and responding to gender-based violence. As a result, the county government developed and passed a gender policy. Nationally in Kenya, there has been a decrease in FGM from 21% in 2014 to 15% in 2022.

We are also campaigning for an end to FGM in Ireland. We have brought the signatures of over 10,000 campaigners to the attention of politicians. And we are continuing our role in the National Steering Committee for Ending FGM where we work with partners in Ireland to end FGM in Ireland. 

More on our work to end gender-based violence

Learn more about our work to end gender-based violence here.

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