Female genital cutting numbers on decline, but huge challenges remain

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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

Despite a century of efforts to put an end to female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C), millions of girls are still undergoing the practice.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA ) issued the message on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for  Female Genital Mutilation, observed every year on 6 February.

Over 125 million girls and women have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Asia where the practice is still concentrated, the agency estimates.

In recent years legislation has been adopted in three countries, law enforcement capacity has been developed, services have been strengthened, and the visibility of FGM/C has been raised through the media, says Leyla Alyanak, Senior External Relations Adviser for UNFPA.

However, the challenges remain enormous, she warns.

"For example, in the programme's first five years more than 10,000 communities in the 15 countries renounced the practice. Also, in the countries where FGM/C was concentrated, 36 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 had been cut, compared to an estimated 53 per cent of women aged 45 to 49. So numbers were falling. However, if nothing more was done, some 86 million young girls worldwide were likely to experience some form of the practice by 2030, so there was an urgent need to intensify efforts."

UNFPA and UNICEF have had some success with the Joint Programme to end FGM/C within a generation, a human-rights based model launched in 2008 in 15 African countries.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1’41″

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