On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM: No room for business as usual

Jeremy Hopkins , Frederika Meijer , Sunday 6 Feb 2022

Last week, the Child Helpline received a call about a midwife who was going to perform Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on five girls in a village in Assiut. Luckily, they moved quickly to save the girls and stop the crime before it took place.

Companied photo
Jeremy Hopkins (L) and Frederika Meijer (R).

In 2021 alone, the National Child Helpline, set up by the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and the Women Complaints Hotline set up by the National Council for Women collectively received over 7500 calls with reports or queries on FGM.

Today, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, we must think of the tens of thousands of cases that go unreported. 

An estimated 68 million girls around the world are at risk of being cut (FGM) by 2030. To protect them, we need to move 10 times faster.

The current pace at which we are moving to address FGM is not sufficient to meet the global target of zero cases by 2030. We need to increase investments and accelerate efforts drastically. 

Business as usual is no longer an option.

Rooted in gender inequality, FGM is a stark violation of the human rights of women and girls.

Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have posed a significant challenge. The pandemic put girls at a higher risk of FGM due to school closures, lockdowns and the overall disruption of protection and response systems. 

While we have made considerable progress towards the elimination of FGM, we still have a long way to go. 

Indeed, Egypt has reached several milestones and inches ever closer towards eradicating this harmful practice. Demonstrating strong political will, several unprecedented measures continue to be taken to end FGM, driven by the National Committee for the Eradication of FGM, headed by the National Council for Women and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood.

Most recently in April 2021, the Egyptian parliament approved a bill proposed by the Cabinet of Ministers, further toughening the penalty for those who perform FGM, with a particular focus on the medicalisation of FGM, as well as those who promote the practice.  

Under the leadership of the National Committee for the Eradication of FGM, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM also works to mobilize communities, and increase knowledge around such harmful practice. 

Every year the programme knocks on 4 million doors accompanied by nation-wide multi-media campaigns on the radio, television and social media #ProtectHerAgainstFGM The joint programme also raises the awareness and capacity of community leaders, and engages religious leaders and parents in community dialogues to promote the abandonment of FGM. Young people are also trained to explain what FGM is and discourage its practice amongst their peers and communities through different edutainment techniques such as interactive theatre and sports for development.

We look forward to supporting the implementation of the national committee’s National Action Plan for the Eradication of FGM, which will support and accelerate the efficiency and coordination of the nationwide efforts to end FGM.

We need to build on this momentum, and we need to do it with urgency. 

Women’s and girls’ attitudes have slowly been shifting against FGM. In the last few years adolescent girls are at least 50 percent more likely to oppose the practice than older women. 

Empowered girls can become agents of change for themselves, their families and their communities. We need to create a more conducive environmentfor themto challenge this harmful practice and the social and behavioral norms that make this acceptable.

Ensuring access to quality health, protection and response services, along with education and skills development opportunities and participating in empowerment programmes such as Dawwie and Noura, will most certainly accelerate the elimination of FGM and give girls greater opportunity to reach their full potential.

Invest in eliminating FGM, supporting national protection and response systems, and let adolescent girls lead the way.

* Jeremy Hopkins is the UNICEF Representative in Egypt.

Frederika Meijer is the UNFPA Representative in Egypt.

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