Today, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reaffirms our commitment to ending this human rights violation and the gender inequalities that contribute to the prevalence of FGM/C around the world.
FGM/C is a public health issue and a violation of a woman's right to bodily integrity. This practice has no health benefits and leads to a range of physical and mental health challenges that can last a lifetime. UNICEF estimates that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced FGM/C.
While the harmful practice is still prevalent, FGM/C has become less common today and opposition to the practice is growing widely. Support to end this practice among women and girls between the ages of 15-49 in high-prevalence countries has doubled from two decades ago. USAID is actively involved in addressing this topic through a number of initiatives, including its project, Koota Injena ("Come Let Us Talk") which partners with local and international organizations in Northeast Kenya to tackle the common root causes that drive FGM/C. The project involves working with religious and traditional leaders, youth champions of all genders, mothers and daughters, and clan leaders in 40 communities.
Lasting change to end harmful traditional practices must be led by the communities themselves, as they re-envision norms, values, safety, rights, and empowerment of women and girls. While the international community has made progress on ending FGM/C globally, there is still a long way to go. We must all work together to overturn deeply entrenched gender norms on the value of the girl child that are not only harmful to women and girls, but to the development and stability of nations.