Press Release

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation: Ending FGM is a political decision

6 February 2018

Freetown, 6 February 2018 – Today marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), a day of global advocacy and a chance for people all over the world to raise their voices and make a difference for girls. On this day, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women reaffirm the call for greater political engagement to eliminate this harmful practice in Sierra Leone. 

 FGM/C violates the human rights and undermines the health and well-being of some 3 million girls worldwide each year.  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/C, which has had an enormous impact on their lives.

UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women welcome the recent announcement by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Maya Moiwo Kaikai, of a temporary ban on all initiation until 31 March 2018. A similar ban during the Ebola epidemic led to reports of a significant reduction in the practice of FGM/C among children. In his address to mark the end of the Ebola outbreak, His Excellency the President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma called for a new beginning where “traditional practices that have a negative impact on health, and which were discontinued during the outbreak, should not be returned to”.

The Government of Sierra Leone has signed up to key international commitments to end FGM/C, which include the 2012 UN General Assembly Resolution to ban the practice worldwide and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

In Sierra Leone, FGM/C is deeply rooted in local social norms with 89.6 per cent (DHS 2013) of females aged 15-49 years reporting they have experienced the practice. FGM/C is a form of discrimination and studies shows that it has medical and psychological complications on the lives of girls and women.

“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,” said UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Kim Dickson.

“We have seen more and more public discussion in Sierra Leone around FGM/C over the past few years, and we welcome the fact that this is less of a taboo subject,” said UNICEF Country Representative, Dr Hamid El-Bashir. “We support a national dialogue on alternative rites of passage that do not entail FGM/C and its harmful outcomes for women and girls.”

In recent years, 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/C with an action plan and monitoring framework (2016-2020), and the United Nations looks forward to working with the Government to finalise this 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,” said Dr Mary Okumu, UN Women Representative.

 

For more information contact:

Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist, UNFPA Sierra Leone, areid@unfpa.org Tel: (+232) 78 340 044

Issa Davies, Communication Officer, UNICEF Sierra Leone, idavies@unicef.org Tel: (+232) 78 597 004

Cecil Nelson, Communications Officer, UN Women, cecil.nelson@unwomen.org Tel. (+232) 78 372 066

 

About UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women

UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. UNFPA reaches millions of women and young people in 155 countries and territories.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.