FGM: Awareness Day Passes With Little Notice

Published on Foreign Policy Association FPB, by Cassandra Clifford, on February 14, 2012.

… While international awareness and laws against the practice have undoubtedly increased in the last decade, one of the biggest wins came in February 2008, when ten UN agencies came together to end female genital mutilation. They concurred that individual countries have the best means to change the terrible tradition.  Countries such as Uganda have since implemented a ban, but the issue of FGM remains one of the most heartbreaking and painful reminders of ongoing gender inequality and abuse.   

The harmful practice affects some 140 million girls and women, and it is estimated that three million girls are at risk of being subjected to the horrific ritual, according to the World Heath Organization WHO.

In many countries, education and awareness have successfully eliminated the FGM in communities and helped establish laws to ban it, but in countries such as Somalia and Sudan,  98% and 89% of young girls respectively are forced to go through the painful and needless practice.

Rates of FGM have fallen in many countries, but the fight to end the practice is far from over. Efforts must continue in countries where the practice has a long-standing history, but the fight for gender equality and an end to sexual violence is global, and will not be won without a united front. FGM must be considered a human rights violation, not a one-time instance of abuse. Therefore, education and awareness on its long term effects must be put into place, as should laws to address the severity of the crime. This legislation must be adequately implemented and violators prosecuted.  Governments and NGO’s must work together with community leaders on all levels to see that the entire community is adequately educated on the facts of FGM and the long term effects it has on a girl’s mental and physical health.

The hope and dream is not that FGM awareness days gain a color to flood the streets once a year, but to advocate for awareness year-long and promote and fund programs to educate communities. However, the lack of awareness of the day itself may be a depressing indicator of just how far we have to go.

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