Somali Waris Dirie is a human rights activist, writer and supermodel. When she was only five, she was forced to undergo the inhuman procedure of female genital mutilation. Her story is well documented and known as she struggled to become an international celebrity, known for her commitment in the fight against female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).
Like Waris, 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation or cutting in a swath of 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East. 125 million is roughly the equivalent of the whole population of Japan. This practice is a clear violation of human rights and it is completely inacceptable that it continues to take place. Yet, it does: Another 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the next decade. That is why I am so pleased that so many people were gathered at the launch of a new UNICEF report on this subject, which is partly funded by the European Union. I had to miss the event but I was glad to contribute with a videomessage.
The report updates figures on FGM/C which were published 8 years ago and provides additional light on how the practice is changing and on the progress made in fighting it. To be able to measure the extension of this phenomenon is the first step towards tackling it.
From the report we have learnt that some progress has been made: Several programmes included educational campaigns aiming at raising awareness of the risks of FGM/C and stimulating public discussion and debate on the practice. They obtained good results, like in Senegal which is close to becoming the first country in the world to declare the commitment of its population to total abandonment of this practice.
The studies also demonstrate that the cutting is closely associated with certain ethnic and religious groups. This would mean that social norms and expectations within similar communities play a strong role in the perpetuation of the practice.
We have to work with those communities and convince them to abandon it for the well-being of their daughters and the respect of their fundamental rights. There is still a lot to do, but the EU will remain strongly committed in fighting against all form of violence and discrimination suffered by women and girls.