The United Nations launched a program earlier this month to combat the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to Inter Press Service (IPS), UNFPA and UNICEF have created a $44 million dollar program that plans to reduce FGM by 40 percent.
UNICEF defines FGM as partial or total removal of external genitalia and estimates that in Africa between 100 and 140 million women are victims of FGM. The UN News Centre says that FGM leaves “physical and psychological scars” and increases health risks especially during childbirth. FGM is most prevalent in Africa, but cases are also found in Asia, as well as in immigrant communities in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the US. According to IPS, more and more countries are criminalizing the practice of FGM.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid told IPS, “There is a decline in FGM prevalence in countries where FGM abandonment interventions have been going on for some years, such as Eritrea, Kenya, Mali, and Nigeria. However, despite some of these successes, the overall rate of decline is slow. We must speed it up.”
The UNFPA program works to eradicate FGM through educational programs in schools as well as training for health and social workers. The program also advocates reform on the government level. For women who have already undergone FGM the program provide treatment and care. Additionally, UNFPA teaches the women practitioners of FGM other skills to generate income, therefore allowing them to abandon the practice.
Obaid called for more awareness of the practice in the world, “The international community must show renewed commitment and join hands with national governments to allocate sufficient funds to scale up community, national, regional, and global efforts to produce social change.”