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FGM/C: What next towards elimination?

By Anke van der Kwaak – KIT SRHR Team Lead

The idea that the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) will be eliminated anytime soon remains an illusion. Recent baseline studies for the Power to You(th) programme show there is a need for a more targeted approaches, building alliances against persistent norm-setting and use of local media and comprehensive sexuality education to enforce laws and policies.

As the five year programme begins, we summarise the current situation in four of the target countries, and ask what’s next if elimination is to be realised by 2030.

Indonesia – Local media and awareness-raising

The study shows that local media play an important role in spreading awareness of SRHR issues. They report data on child marriage and cases of violence against women and children from regional agencies and on activities organised by youth organisations relating to these issues. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media was also used by various agencies, CSOs and youth organisations to campaign and advocate on SRHR issues. However, there is no local media coverage on FGM/C, and whilst policies exist to prevent child marriage and violence against women, there are none for teenage pregnancy or FGM/C.

Kenya – Targeted and contextualised Action

In Kenya, the study in Kajiado showed that the existing national anti-FGM/C policy has been cascaded to the county level, and as a result, Kenya is the first country to have a localised anti-FGM/C policy. However, in addition to policy, an action plan is also needed in which FGM/C and early marriage and other SRHR issues are integrated and contextualised. The study also showed that young people from different settings and counties are not homogeneous, meaning specific interventions must be designed to help girls and boys from different contexts and backgrounds.

Uganda – Building alliances against FGM/C

The study showed that many norms perpetuate the practice of FGM/C in Bukwe Uganda, such as the belief that girls are only ready for marriage once they are circumcised. It is also believed that the practice prevents sexual immorality and infidelity among married women and girls, and that it initiates girls into womanhood. The practice is also a valuable source of income for the practitioners who do the cutting, making elimination even harder.

In tackling FGM/C, young people felt most supported by healthcare workers, but other young girls often received support from their parents, religious leaders and teachers, showing how important it is for future interventions to strengthen alliances between the girls and all the important stakeholders surrounding them.

Ethiopia – Enhancing laws and policies through comprehensive sexuality education

In Ensaro, participants said that existing laws were strict enough to prevent child marriage and FGM/C, but they were not implemented because the practices were hidden. Some parents in Ensaro agreed that the law did not solve problems related to child marriage and FGM/C, as there was limited implementation at the community level. The study suggests that these laws should be part of the school curriculum so that young people can learn about them as part of their general education.

Power to You(th)

Despite existing efforts in all of these countries, the studies show that within the Power to Youth programme, approaches are needed that are more comprehensive. They should not only raise community awareness and knowledge but also strengthen the implementation of policies and actions targeting the elimination of FGM/C and ensure that the voices of youth and adolescents are heard and incorporated into the implementation of action plans.

The Power to You(th) programme focuses on youth and the power of adolescent girls and young women in achieving change to harmful practices, sexual and gender-based violence, and poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including unintended pregnancy. It lasts for five years (2021 – 2025) and is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.