Documenting and Describing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and Evaluating Abandonment Interventions

Council research has contributed to the global evidence base on FGM/C and influenced policies and programs to stop it.

The Issue

Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), also referred to as female circumcision, describes a range of practices involving cutting, removing, and sometimes sewing up external female genitalia for nonmedical reasons. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF estimate that between 125 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM/C and that three million girls in Africa alone are at risk each year.

While strongly endorsed as a social norm in many cultures, FGM/C is a violation of girls’ and women’s basic rights and has no health benefits. Indeed, it can cause physical and psychological trauma, both immediately and over the long term, as well as difficulties during childbirth. FGM/C reflects deep-rooted gender-based inequalities, constitutes extreme discrimination against girls and women, and is a criminal act in many countries.

The Progress

The goal of the Council's program of research and technical assistance related to FGM/C has been to provide program managers, development partners, and advocates with insightful explanations of reasons for and dynamics of the practice and empirical evidence on the feasibility and effectiveness of interventions that encourage its abandonment.

Findings from Council research have contributed significantly to the global evidence base and influenced policies and programs. The Council has also strengthened research methods and expanded the capacity of national organizations and individuals to implement evidence-based interventions and undertake research, monitoring, and evaluation on this sensitive topic. 

The Impact

  • The Council was instrumental in creating the International Network to Analyze, Communicate, and Transform the Campaign Against FGC/FGM/FC (INTACT), which promotes high-quality research, disseminates key findings through its website, and strengthens links between researchers and program and policy leaders.
  • Council staff collaborated with the NGO Tostan to document and evaluate Tostan’s groundbreaking community empowerment intervention in Burkina Faso and Senegal. Lessons learned through Council research have informed decisions by UN organizations to recommend this model as a best practice.
  • In Egypt, the Council has undertaken numerous research studies over many years to inform the Egyptian government and NGOs seeking an end to FGM/C.
  • In Kenya, the Council completed a national situation analysis of interventions that supported the Ministry of Health in developing national service guidelines for managing medical complications of FGM/C.

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