Friday, 15 January 2021

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Holiday season peak in FGM “cutting season”

Anti FGM campaign | © Walala Biotey Photo

14.8.2017 - July, August and September means “cutting season” for many girls around the world, when the break from school means they have time to undergo, and recover from, Female Genital Mutilation, known as FGM.

Though there is little formally collected data, experts say that FGM is commonly practiced during the school vacation in countries like Guinea, Nigeria and Somalia, and in some cases, girls even travel from abroad to undergo the procedure. Each year, 180000 girls and women in Europe are estimated to be at risk of FGM.

The medicalisation of the practice, where “lighter” versions of FGM are performed within hospitals or health facilities are of no less concern. In 2010, United Nations Agencies launched a Global Strategy to stop health-care providers from performing FGM. “Advocating for a lesser form of FGM can just as easily be compared to a "lesser form of violence and discrimination" against women and girls the world over”, the European End FGM Network states.

FGM prevalence | © UNICEF 2013

In all cases, FGM is an internationally recognized human rights violation. The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, partners with the government, health workers, local organizations, as well as religious leaders and youth activists to encourage their community and policymakers to abandon the practice.

And there is hope, as a new generation is increasingly questioning the practice.

“The world is changing, and Somalis are changing too,” says Nimo Hussain, from the Hargeisa Institute of Health Sciences. The Institute revised its midwifery curriculum last year, with help from UNFPA, to teach how to manage FGM-related complications that arise during childbirth. The programme also trains future midwives to become advocates for abandoning the practice.

Today, youth activists in the Y-Peer youth network have also take on the issue. Pioneered by UNFPA, Y-Peer trains young people to educate community members about sexual and reproductive health. In Hargeisa, Y-Peer advocates talk to health workers, community members and other young people about a range of topics, including family planning, gender-based violence, child marriage and FGM.

Some religious leaders are also encouraging the changes. The head of International Horn University, Sheikh Almis Yahye Ibrahim, 47, is one of six sheikhs in the Arab region who have formed a network to fight FGM. He also preaches about the harms of FGM to the roughly 5,000 people at the Ibrahim Dheere Mosque. Islam, contrary to many misconceptions, does not require nor recommend FGM in any form.

None of Sheikh Ibrahim’s three daughters have been cut. “I wouldn’t want to destroy anything about them”, he says. ”They should remain the way Allah created them.”

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