A Global Media Campaign to End Female Genital Mutilation

Human Wrongs Watch

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) must come to a quick end and the global media can play a critical role in making that happen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 30 October 2014 affirmed during his visit to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

At age one, Fatima was subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in her village in Afar Region of Ethiopia which has one of the world’s highest prevalence rates. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

Speaking at the launch of the Global Media Campaign against female genital mutilation organized by the Guardian Media Group, the Secretary-General underscored the importance of placing a greater media focus on the issue, which condemns millions of girls and women to the brutal practice each year.

“Change can happen through sustained media attention on the damaging public health consequences of FGM, as well as on the abuse of the rights of hundreds of thousands of women and girls around the world,” Ban confirmed.

More than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation

New data recently released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows the need for urgent action to end FGM. According to UNICEF, more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

In his remarks, Mr. Ban highlighted the courage of individual activists in promoting greater awareness among at-risk girls and women, noting that sustained public pressure along with media awareness could help generate “concrete results.”

In the United Kingdom, where over 20,000 girls are currently at risk of FGM, Ban praised the efforts of Fahma Mohamed who had secured a commitment from the Government to write to all schools warning about the dangers of the practice.

Source: United Nations

Source: United Nations

Meanwhile, in the United States, where risks are similarly high among certain diaspora communities, he cited the Guardian campaign led by FGM survivor Jaha Dukereh which led the Government to promise to carry out the first national survey on FGM prevalence.

“The mutilation of girls and women must stop in this generation – our generation,” the Secretary-General said, adding that the fight to end FGM was not solely limited to female campaigners.

“Men and boys must also be encouraged to support the fight against FGM – and they should be praised when they do.”

As part of its wider Organizational push to end FGM, Mr. Ban announced a new, joint UN Population Fund (UNFPA) – Guardian International FGM Reporting Award to be granted annually to an African reporter who has demonstrated “innovation and commitment” in covering FGM.

The competition winner, he said, would spend two months training and working at The Guardian’s offices in London while, in Kenya, another five joint UNFPA-Guardian FGM Reporting Grants would also be awarded to the country’s leading media houses to help support their reporting on FGM.

“Ending FGM is part of the UN’s unwavering campaign for the health, human rights and empowerment of women and girls,” said Mr. Ban. “We salute the girls and women who have fought against FGM and reclaimed their bodies. We now need them to be the norm rather than the exception.”

The Secretary-General’s visit to Kenya is the fourth stop in a visit to the Horn of Africa aimed at promoting development and consolidating peace and security across the wider region.

Six-year-old Asmah Mohamad, who was forced to undergo the painful FGM/C procedure, is is comforted by her mother Bedria. © UNICEF/NYHQ2005-2229/Getachew

Six-year-old Asmah Mohamad, who was forced to undergo the painful FGM/C procedure, is is comforted by her mother Bedria. © UNICEF/NYHQ2005-2229/Getachew

The trip unites the capacities of the UN, World Bank, European Union, Islamic Development Bank, and African Development Bank and targets a swathe of countries in the Horn of Africa, spanning Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, with an $8 billion development initiative. (*Source: UN Release).

New UN Data shows need for urgent action to end female genital mutilation, child marriage

Kalpona was 12 when her parents arranged for her to marry a man more than twice her age. A few days before the wedding, they agreed to let her continue with school instead. Photo: UNICEF/BANA2014-00451/MAWA

New data released on 22 July 2014 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows the need for urgent action to end female genital mutilation and child marriage – two practices that affect millions of girls across the globe.**

According to the newly-released data, more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation, also known as FGM, in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

In addition, child marriage is widespread, the agency pointed out in a news release. More than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before the age of 15.

“The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts. And let’s not forget that these numbers represent real lives. While these are problems of a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM/C and child marriage,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

“We can’t let the staggering numbers numb us – they must compel us to act.”

Neshwa, 15, is one of millions of girls around the world to have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). She hopes to become a doctor. Let girls be girls: http://uni.cf/GS14#GirlSummit. Credits: UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1466/HOLT

The new data was released in conjunction with the first-ever Girl Summit, co-hosted in London by UNICEF and the Government of the United Kingdom, to rally support for faster progress to end child marriage and FGM.

Female genital mutilation/cutting refers to a number of practices which involve cutting away part or all of a girl’s external genitalia. The practice has no health benefits, causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, including prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, child marriage can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation, noted UNICEF. Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence. Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s; their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.

“FGM and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential. They are detriments to the girls themselves, their families, and their societies,” said Lake.

“Girls are not property; they have the right to determine their destiny. When they do so, everyone benefits.” (**Source: UN Release).

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