Leveraging Education/Policy to End FGM/C in Africa by 2030
It is critical to recognize that not everything is hopeless as we rapidly approach 2030, the year specifically targeted to end female genital mutilation and guarantee justice for girls and women. Despite its continued prevalence in Africa, data show that a girl is now one-third less likely than she was 30 years ago to be the victim of genital mutilation or cutting. For example, the anti-FGM laws passed in 28 African states (where FGM is prevalent), the extensive education and campaign against FGM in the civil society space, are only a few factors contributing to the reduction in Africa.
Despite the laudable but slow progress in the reduction of female genital mutilation in Africa, given available data FGM/C still remains endemic in Africa. However, the prevalence varies from place to place in the 27 African countries with data on FGM prevalence as shown in figure 1.1.
Given the 27 countries with data on FGM on the continent, a number of factors might remain a bulwark against eradicating FGM/C in seven years’ time on the continent. Chief among these factors is religious practice or value. According to statistics, female genital mutilation is more likely to happen in states where Islam is the predominant religion, but it is also not less frequent in states where Christianity is the predominant faith. There is no question that the practice of FGM/C may as well be a product of African customs that are not necessarily ingrained in Islam and/or Christianity, given the prevalence of FGM/C in Togo where neither Christianity nor Islam is dominant but rather others as shown in figure 1.2.
Having probed how religion and African customs could possibly be a factor perpetuating FGM/C, it is important to mention that literacy rate of the population could be a factor contributing to the practice of FGM/C. Given the information available on the prevalence of FGM/C among girls between the ages of 0 and 14, it can be concluded that the country with the lowest literacy rate has the highest rate of FGM/C among girls between the ages of 0 and 14. However, there is no clearly discernible relationship between higher literacy rates and lower FGM/C practice in Africa as in figure 1.3.
It is instructive to note that owing to the sensitivity of this topic, the data might be inaccurate to make a concrete conclusion. Moreover, there are countries with no data and it does not in anyway mean FGM/C is absent in those places on the continent (see equality now for such countries). It is difficult to underpin in straightforward statistical terms the factors that could continue to perpetuate this injustice against girls and women in Africa, education and re-orientation cannot be underestimated.
Comprehensive policies and/or laws with proper implementation and institutionalised order would help to achieve the aim of eradicating FGM/C in Africa. Hence, collaboration between the states and civil society for policy-oriented solution and campaign-based re-orientation is a considerable model in ending FGM by 2030 in Africa. AS the UN Secretary general rightly said, “I call on men and boys everywhere to join me in speaking out and stepping forward to end female genital mutilation, for the benefit of all.” A society with mutilated half is a sick society. FGM/C negatively affects economic development and healthy living.
There must be Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting!
At AGTRC, we are tracking civil society space in Africa campaigning against FGM/C. If your organisation works on FGM/C in Africa, please send us, the name and location of your organisation for tracking purpose (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you!