“My story starts when I was one week old, when I went through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I have no memory of going through the process, and I didn’t know until the age of 15, when I was forced to get married.
I came to New York City on Christmas Day when I was 15 years old to marry a man whom I had never met. I think getting married at a young age is the most difficult thing any girl can ever go through. When you force a girl to marry, you’ve given a man a right to rape her every single day,”
This is the story of Jaha Dukureh, UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, who underwent the risky process of FGM at her early age.
Dukureh, she is also an outspoken activist leading the movement to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, though experienced this harmful practice at her early stage, the lifelong, indelible physical and psychological wound the practice has imprinted on her is still fresh. That is why she is striving to protect women and girls from the harsh consequences of FGM and early marriage.
This story, for many of us, seems to be an account of a single woman. Rather, it is a matter that represents millions of women and girls who had experienced FGM or forced to marry at their early age or those subjected to this painful, life-threatening harmful practice.
As studies indicate, each year, around 4 million girls worldwide are at risk of undergoing FGM, with most girls cut before the age of 15. To eliminate the practice and secure the health and lives of women and girls different initiatives are carried out. As part of this, every year, February 6, the international community marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
This year’s Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) day was also marked with a theme “Accelerating Investment to End FGM” — calling for support for programs to provide services and response for those affected and those at risk; in developing and enforcing laws, and fortifying institutional capacity to eliminate the practice.
As part of the global community, Ethiopia also observed the day by reaffirming its strong commitment and readiness to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); and urging all actors for increased practical action.
According to a press release issued by Ministry of Women and Social Affairs, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is becoming a global concern because it is affecting the health of women and girls severely. The practice has affected 200 million women and girls across more than 32 countries.
It is also an act that violates the rights of women and girls; and a thing that brings about a detrimental impact on the physical and psychological health of victims. It is a harmful practice that leads women to excessive bleedings, infection and several complications during labor and child birth including maternal death.
With a plan to eliminate this harmful practice by 2030 globally, the subject is incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Ethiopia is one among countries with the highest prevalence of FGM. According to Ethiopia’s Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) of 2016, 65 percent of women and girls with the age between 15 and 49; and 47 percent with the age group of 15 and 19 were affected by this harmful practice.
However, following the comprehensive campaign and public awareness movement the country has put forth since recent time, the trend has scale down and significant improvements are shown. In the same manner, community forum that works to curb the trend of harmful practice was setup at national level.
The national alliance that was established in order to strengthen the national effort to eliminate child marriage and FGM is contributing towards the implementation of the national roadmap devised to end child marriage and FGM at the federal and state level by 2020 – 2024.
As a result of the concerted efforts of the national alliance, promising results are registered across the country; and increasing number of people are playing role to curb harmful practices that are exercised on women and girls, it added.
“Ethiopia is part of the largest global program including, UNFPA and UNICEF, that are working to scale up efforts to end FGM; and the country is undertaking various community-centered activities based on the financial and technical support gained from different actors.”
In addition, stakeholders those working targeting on areas of social and gender issues are implementing various activities, such as preparing standard community participation manual, Out Of School Girls (OOSGs) engagement package and other related matters to enhance the effectiveness of the program, bring about substantial change and make the program a success.
Restating that the global community has marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) with the theme “Accelerating Investment to End FGM”, the statement said that Ministry of Women and Social Affairs along with the National alliance have also observed the day organizing various advocacy platforms and sessions that discuss this same issue.
However, as to the statement, to curtail the harmful practice exercised on women and children, the active participation and commitment of all stakeholders is critical. Thus, concerting the efforts of all actors is important.
“Joining hands, we strive to bring lasting solution for women and girls through eliminating FGM,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, UNFPA and UNICEF in Ethiopia jointly call for renewed and increased commitment and investment of resources by the Government of Ethiopia and development partners to accelerate implementation of the National Costed Roadmap to end female genital mutilation in Ethiopia.
The call was made in connection with the observance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), celebrated worldwide last Sunday, February 6, 2022.
The statement issued jointly by the two organizations stated that Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in the last decade in the reduction of FGM prevalence among girls and women aged 15-49 from 74 percent in 2005 to 65 percent in 2016. However, Ethiopia is still a home to 25 million circumcised women and girls. This accounts for the largest absolute number in Eastern and Southern Africa and makes up 12.5 percent of the 200 million women and girls who have undergone FGM globally,
The prevalence of FGM among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 has dropped from 62 per cent in 2005 to 47 per cent in 2016.
The National Costed Roadmap, which aims to end FGM by 2025, has an objective of sparing an estimated 3.6 million girls who are at the risk of undergoing FGM. The Government of Ethiopia is leading in costing and domestic financing the initiative pledging a 10 percent annual budget increment in funding its National Costed Roadmap for FGM and child marriage. This is critical in decreasing dependence on external funding and assuring sustainability.
“We congratulate the government for the efforts to end FGM by 2025; but we must collectively renew our commitment to ending this harmful practice and work with all stakeholders to change attitudes so that the next generation of girls can live healthier lives,” said Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Ethiopia Representative.
On her part, Ms. Esperance Fundira, UNFPA Officer-in-Charge noted, “FGM is not only a vicious practice rooted in gender inequality, but it inhibits girls and women from unleashing their potential. We must reiterate our full support for the accelerated implementation of the National Costed Roadmap to End Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation to end this harmful practice.”
BY ELIZABETH MENGISTU
THURSDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2022