This week the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) held the first ever international conference on female genital mutilation (FGM), which discussed research, healthcare services, and preventive measures. Currently, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme is working in 15 African nations to prevent FGM and is establishing partnerships with African Universities to spread awareness of the dangers of FMG.
Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme, stated, “This initiative will improve the lives, health and dignity of women and girls in Africa.” She noted that over three million African communities “are engaged in group discussion, role playing, theatre, poetry and song about the issue [of] female genital mutilation/cutting.”
According to the New York Times, an estimated 92 million girls and women have undergone FGM procedures across the continent of Africa, with FGM being practiced as a rite of passage in 28 African countries. The procedure, which involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia, is designed to decrease women’s sexual desire and is seen in many cultures as essential for a women’s suitability for marriage. The practice is also known to both increase the risk of HIV transmission and infant and maternal mortality rates.
Feminist Daily Newswire 10/21/11; UNFPA Statement 10/18/11; New York Times 10/15/11