Today, February 6, 2020, is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This year, the focus is on mobilizing youth under the theme: "Unleashing Youth Power: One decade of accelerating actions for zero female genital mutilation."
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Defined by the UN as “all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons”, to this day, these harmful practices continue around the world. According to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of Female Genital Mutilation. The practice is most common in the Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa, in some countries of the Middle East and Asia, as well as among migrants from these areas. This brutal procedure is generally carried out on girls between the ages of 5 and 14.
Female Genital Mutilation, rarely carried out by a doctor, can lead to death and have devastating and long-lasting consequences for victims: health problems including severe bleeding, recurrent infections or complications at childbirth, as well as psychological damage throughout their lives.
Female Genital Mutilation is a manifestation of deeply entrenched gender inequality. Although the reasons for this practice vary from region to region, it is often explained by the following false justifications:
- FGM is usually considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
- FGM is frequently motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behavior. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity.
- Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
- It is considered a cultural tradition, linked to local power structures and authorities who uphold the practice.
Organizations around the world are working tirelessly to put an end to this brutal practice, through prevention and awareness
Today, we highlight a few of the Kering Foundation’s inspiring partners committed to this fight:
- In Great Britain, Birmingham & Solihull Women's Aid works with women survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, forced marriages, and FGM. Their FGM prevention program is made up of three types of targeted actions: psychological care for victims, training of health professionals and awareness campaigns. Between August 2019 and January 2020, BSWA supported 71 FGM survivors. 92% of them have a better understanding of the consequences of FGM and a better understanding of health risks of FGM as a result of the support they have received from BSWA.
- In France, la Maison des Femmes in Saint-Denis supports survivors of FGM, providing comprehensive services, from medical and psychological consultations to self-esteem workshops. In addition, La Maison des Femmes is taking part in a full-day workshop in Paris today, on February 6th, 2020: "Building bridges to end FGM", alongside other specialist organizations. Activists from the field, health professionals, legal specialists and many others are gathering to exchange and share good practices to end FGM.
- Excision, parlons-en !, also part of the workshop in Paris, has launched its FGM Alert campaign in 2017 to warn and protect adolescent girls in France, who are at high risk of being cut during summer holidays, when they return to their families’ countries of origin.
Female filmmakers denounce Female Genital Mutilation highlighted in the 2019 #16Days16 Films campaign
Impactful storytelling and documentaries are also shining a light on the complexities of FGM. Two such films were honored during the 16 Days 16 Films campaign, launched by the Kering Foundation in partnership with Modern Films:
- The Third Sorrow:
Directed by Myriam Raja, winning film of the 16 Days 16 Films competition, this short film tells the story of a Nigerian immigrant and single mother, Yejide, who is preparing for her daughter’s cutting ceremony. As maternal instinct and duty come into conflict, she begins to question the tradition and her daughter’s future.
Directed by Emanuela Zuccalà and Simona Ghizzoni, this documentary illustrates the courage of women in three African countries, Somaliland, Kenya and Ethiopia who have come together to say no to this cruel practice that violates the dignity of women.
- “Uncut: The revolution of women against Female Genital Mutilation”, a photo exhibition also opens today, in Paris, at l’Espace des Femmes. Open until February 29th, 2020, the powerful exhibition gives a collective voice to painful testimonies, as well as to courageous battles for women's emancipation and rights.