Zonta International believes no woman should live in fear of violence. Today, we recognize the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, which is observed to enhance awareness of the issue and to encourage concrete actions against the practice.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. More than 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM in 30 countries across three continents.
Zonta recognizes that FGM is an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls that violates their rights and is harmful in many ways. From 1998-2002, Zonta International worked with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to reduce the incidence of female genital circumcision in Burkina Faso. As a result, Burkina Faso saw a 40 percent decrease in the number of girls who underwent FGM – from 66.35 percent in 1996 to 25 percent in 2005. The government now sees FGM as an issue of public health, violence and individual rights rather than just a traditional practice.
Today, a girl is about one-third less likely to be cut than in 1997. Still, without concerted and accelerated action, a further 54 million girls are likely to be cut by 2030.
Though Zonta is not currently supporting projects directly related to FGM, we are committed to ending violence against women and girls in all its forms, everywhere. We applaud the efforts of two long-standing Zonta partners, UNFPA and UNICEF, and their joint program to eliminate FGM.
In the decade since the program began, more than 2.3 million girls and women have benefitted from protection against FGM and received specialized care services. The program directly contributed to the enactment of laws banning FGM in the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda; it also enabled capacity building and enforcement of legislation, resulting in 700 arrests to date.
This year, the program will enter Phase III, in which they will integrate complementary interventions even more systematically. The joint action builds on valuable lessons learned and is directly linked to the Sustainable Development Goal 5.3, which aims to end all harmful practices by 2030.
Programs like the one between UNICEF and UNFPA will ensure future generations of girls are not subjected to this harmful practice. Zonta International will continue to support and advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals so that FGM is abandoned by 2030, and we encourage our clubs and members to do the same.