February 6, 2018
To mark international day of zero tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a press statement from UNICEF quotes studies which show that the practice ‘has medical and psychological complications on the lives of girls and women.
A press release issued yesterday states that today (February 6) is a global advocacy day with an opportunity for people across the world to raise their voices and make a difference for girls.
The release said a group comprising UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women has re-affirmed calls for greater political engagement to eliminate what they called ‘harmful practice’ in Sierra Leone.
“FGM is a form of discrimination and studies shown that it has medical and psychological complications on the lives of girls and women,” the release says.
The practice, according to the press statement, violates the human rights and undermines the health and well-being of some three million girls worldwide each year, and that more than 130 million girls and women in Africa and the Middle East – where the practice is concentrated today – have undergone some form of FGM, which has had an enormous impact on their lives.
The group also welcomes recent pronouncement by the Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Maya Moiwo Kaikai, of a temporary ban on all initiation until 31 March this year.
A similar ban was made during the Ebola epidemic, with reports indicating a significant reduction in the practice of FGM among children.
The release recalled that President Ernest Bai Koroma had, during his speech to mark the end of Ebola, noted that “traditional practises that have a negative impact on health, and which were discontinued during the outbreak, should not be returned to.”
According to the release, the Government of Sierra Leone had made a commitment during the 2012 UN General Assembly Resolution to ban the practice worldwide, same as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
The release notes that FGM practice in the country is deeply rooted in local social norms, with 89.6 percent (DHS 2013) of females aged 15-49 years reporting they have experienced the practice.
“Female genital mutilation/cutting has immediate and long-term consequences on the health of women, their reproductive health and the health of their children. Activities for the elimination of FGM/C should be developed and implemented in a way that is sensitive to the cultural and social background of the communities that practice it. Behaviour can change when people understand the consequences of certain practices, and when they realise that it is possible to give up harmful practices without giving up meaningful aspects of their culture,” underscores UNFPA Country Representative Dr Kim Dickson.
UNICEF Country Representative, Dr Hamid El-Bashir, says they have seen more and more public discussion in the country around FGM over the past few years, and that they welcome the fact that the issue is less of a taboo subject now.
“We support a national dialogue on alternative rites of passage that do not entail FGM/C and its harmful outcomes for women and girls,” says Dr El-Bashir.
The release further notes that the Government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs drafted a national strategy for the reduction of FGM with an action plan and monitoring framework (2016-2020), and the United Nations looks forward to working with the government to finalise the said document in the near future.
“To accelerate progress towards ending FGM, the UN is working with Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone and civil society. Together, we must keep this issue at the forefront of the human rights agenda,” says Dr. Mary Okumu, UN Women Representative.