Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation and a form of “gender-based violence” which has impacted the lives of millions of women and girls around the world, especially on the African continent. FGM is defined to include “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”, and contributes to negative maternal, physical, and psychological health outcomes. Complications resulting from FGM can include excessive bleeding, severe pain, infection, and even death.
Considering the most recent data and across key indicators – including the 0 to 14 years and 15 to 49 years age brackets – the prevalence of FGM in Africa is from 1% to 97%. As a result, more than 50 million girls in Africa are at risk of undergoing this injurious practice if concerted actions are not taken. Further, given the disastrous consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional two million cases of FGM are estimated by 2030.
Emerging lessons reveal there are varied generational changes between and within countries and regions which include shifts, especially in border towns, in how FGM is practiced, associated with the response to laws and policies against it. Increasing community engagement, especially that of women and youth, leveraging innovation and media exposure is altering the social underpinnings of FGM.
To accelerate the elimination of FGM, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Joint Program on the Elimination of FGM continues to prioritize strategies aimed at catalyzing positive social change for the abandonment of the practice. Created in 2007, the Joint Program is the largest global program aimed at accelerating the elimination of FGM. Currently, in its fourth phase, it focuses on contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 and particularly target 3, seeking to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and FGM by 2030. UNFPA anticipates a one-third reduction towards achieving the elimination of FGM by 2030. Since its inception, it has helped more than 5.5 million girls and women receive prevention, protection, and care services related to FGM. Some 42.5 million people in more than 30,182 communities in 15 countries with high FGM prevalence have made public declarations to abandon the harmful practice.
UNFPA also helps to strengthen health-care services to prevent FGM and treat the complications that ensue from the practice. UNFPA also works with civil society organizations that engage in community-led education and dialogue sessions that focus on health and human rights. The Joint Program works with religious and traditional leaders to de-link FGM from religion and to generate support for abandonment, engaging and working with media to foster dialogue about the practice and to change perceptions of girls who remain uncut.
UNFPA working together with the joint program has initiated the FGM innovation HackLabs project that is engaging young people to initiate innovative solutions to contribute to ending FGM and harmful practices across Africa.
In 2022, UNFPA and the UNICEF/UNFPA Joint program on FGM are launching the 2022 version of the project (building on the successes of the 2021 hackLab) that will seek to engage over 100 innovation incubation/accelerator hubs across Africa which will lead to engaging over 1000 innovators working fervently to ideate FGM innovation solutions to reach over 1M young people, initiate over 200 innovation solutions and scale collective response from young people in Africa.
Ending FGM by 2030 would require redoubling evidence-based efforts and innovation.
Awards:- The project in 2021 identified over 100 innovation solutions, providing seed funding of up to $70,000 and 6 months of business incubation support to scale these solutions into viable products across the continent. In all over 1million young people were engaged with information about FGM innovation.