Council Commentary

How to End FGM/C by 2030? Evidence and Partnership, Say Population Council Experts During UN Meeting

During the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), new Population Council insights about the power of research to understand, measure, and encourage abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) were highlighted through high-level events and press coverage.

Jacinta Muteshi-Strachan, who leads the Council’s Evidence to End FGM/C Research Programme in Nairobi, Kenya, spoke with Devex about the need for nuanced, context-specific approaches to empower girls and support abandonment of FGM/C.

“The most important thing to take forward with this work is we cannot globally apply interventions,” Jacinta Muteshi-Strachan, the project director of a six-year FMG/C project run by the Population Council, explained to Devex following a recent March event. “There’s not going to be one response to it. [It’s a question of] how it is practiced, why it is practiced, what enables change, and what kinds of individual influences there are that made those shifts happen.” (Read more at Devex)

The CSW event, co-hosted by Population Council and the Orchid Project, a charity working towards a world free from FGM/C, featured experts, advocates and policymakers discussing how evidence can guide progress to heightened understanding of FGM/C, increased capacity for practitioners to utilize research, and improved empowerment of girls and women. 

The United Kingdom Secretary of State, Department for International Development, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, provided opening remarks and described the UK’s efforts to support the Africa-led movement to end FGM/C.

“The UK is making the largest-ever donor commitment to support global efforts to end this practice… For our work to be effective, we need evidence to guide our understanding and be a tool to support change,” said Mordaunt.  “But we still don’t know enough about this issue. That is why my department has an 8 million pound research program led by the Population Council in Nairobi, which is already making a real world difference.”

Mordaunt highlighted a range of the recent impacts from the Population Council-led research program.

“In Egypt, our research helped integrate anti-FGM content into the medical school curriculum. In Kenya, our research helped develop national guidelines for managing the medical complications of FGM. In Ethiopia, our research is helping to address FGM and child marriage. We are making progress,” said Mordaunt.

State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, also spoke about Norway’s approach to global FGM/C research and programming.

For more than two decades, the Council has been at the forefront of researching the causes and consequences of FGM/C. Currently, with support from the governments of the United Kingdom and Norway, the Council’s FGM/C research program works with partners around the world to: dramatically expand the body of evidence on the most effective and cost-effective approaches to ending FGM/C in different contexts; demonstrably influence strategic investments, policies, and programs to end FGM/C; and contribute to ending FGM/C within a generation and reducing FGM/C by at least 30% in 10 countries within 5 years.

The CSW event also featured an expert panel, moderated by Julia Lalla-Maharajh, CEO & Founder of Orchid Project, with insights from:

  • Ambassador Mara Marinaki, Principal Adviser on Gender and on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security at the European External Action Service
  • Jacinta Muteshi, Project Director, FGM/C Research Programme, Population Council 
  • Molly Melching, Founder and Creative Director, Tostan
  • Dr. Carolyne Odula, Chair of the Board of Directors, Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) 

Watch some of the highlights from their discussion here:

Additionally, the Council’s Jacinta Muteshi-Strachan was featured in the new rePROS Fight Back podcast, “a podcast on the frontlines of the fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

“Dr. Jacinta Muteshi-Strachan, FGM researcher with Population Council, sits down with us to discuss FGM/C, (which occurs in 30 countries across Africa, Asia and possibly South America), and the impacts surrounding this severe violation of the human rights of girls and women around the world… While the picture still remains incomplete, it will be hard to accelerate the progress being made on ending FGM/C. To get a clearer picture, we need to invest more in research.”


Learn more about the Council’s research on FGM/C here.