February 6th marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
FGM/C is a severe violation of girls’ and women’s human rights, may cause immediate and lifelong trauma, and has no health benefits. More than 120 million girls and women have already undergone FGM/C, and up to 30 million girls under age 15 are currently at risk.
Building on decades of research on FGM/C, the Population Council has received an award from the UK Department for International Development that will expand the Council’s comprehensive research agenda to illuminate the dynamics of FGM/C and generate empirical evidence on interventions to encourage its abandonment.
“Our evidence shows that when we understand why the practice continues, effective and appropriate interventions can be implemented that lead to change,” said Ian Askew, Population Council director of reproductive health services and research.
“The Population Council and its consortium partners are pleased to join with DFID on this crucial research agenda. Working with national partners and communities, we can end FGM within a generation.”
This research program will assist African communities in designing efficient and cost-effective ways to eliminate the practice, and in turn reduce FGM/C by at least 30% in 10 target countries.
“The new research programme led by the Population Council will help support these initiatives by providing vital evidence about what actions we can take to make a real difference to the lives of women and girls,” said UK Development Minister Baroness Northover.
The Evening Standard covered the announcement Friday.
In most countries, FGM/C is decreasing, the World Health Organization notes, but significant local and global research and interventions need to take place to eliminate the practice. WHO has also documented a rising trend toward the “medicalization” of FGM/C, as more than 18% of all FGM/C is conducted by health care providers.
And despite progress in national courts—22 of the 29 main countries practicing FGM/C now have some form of law prohibiting the practice—prevalence remains high and millions of girls remain at risk.
This interactive map built by IRIN News displays the prevalence and legality of FGM/C in 29 countries:
Writing on USAID’s blog, Director of OPRH Ellen Starbird sums up what’s at stake for every girl and woman at risk of FGM/C:
“FGM/C is a striking example of women’s lack of agency—a graphic illustration of powerlessness to make their own choices about their lives. If a girl cannot make a decision not to be cut, she also likely will not have the right to make her own informed decisions about her health, her education, or decide when and whom she marries, when to start a family, and what size that family will be.”