In the Egyptian village of Abou Shawareb, community leaders and women’s rights activists made a public commitment last week to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of “The FGM Free Village Model” program established by The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM). The program was launched in 2003 in an effort to eradicate FGM in 60 villages in the northern Egypt governates of Assuit, Aswan, Beni Suef, Minya, Quena, and Sohag. The NCCM has plans to enlarge the campaign to cover 120 villages.
FGM is a term used to refer to the harmful practice of cutting or removing all or parts of the female genitals for cultural, non-medical reasons. The NCCM campaign trains health workers to educate communities about the health risks involved in the operation. Depending on the environment and type of procedure performed, FGM can cause sterility, birth complications, loss of sexual pleasure, and disease. Roughly 97 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 to 49 have experienced some form of FGM in their lifetime, according to a study conducted by the United States Agency for International Development in 2000.
FGM is often difficult to eliminate in villages where the practice is considered a traditional rite of passage. The United Nations Development Program Resident Representative, who participated in Abou Shawareb’s official declaration ceremony, explained, “Not all traditions are good. Female genital mutilation represents violence against women and is a violation of human rights,” according to IRIN News.
Since the early 1990s, the Egyptian government has made the eradication of FGM a national priority. The First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, began a project called the “Egyptian Girl” in 2003, which focuses on ending FGM and other forms of violence against women.