In February, UNICEF marked the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance
to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, highlighting the need to put end to a practice that affects the health
and well-being of girls worldwide.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), also known as female circumcision, is a traditional cultural practice that in several African and Middle Eastern countries. To date, it has harmfully affected more than 100 million women. The practice has both short and long-term health repercussions, and causes enormous amounts of physical, psychological, and emotional pain. An estimated 3 million African girls between the ages of 5 and 18 suffer through this painful process every year. UNICEF and its partners are committed to abolish FGM/C in one generation, and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives.
A sticker advocates for the end of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the northern district of Séguéla, Cote d'Ivoire. | © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0259/Olivier Asselin
Sound impossible? It’s not – and UNICEF is making amazing progress. UNICEF and its partners launched a program called “Accelerating Change
” in 2008, working in 15 African countries to support communities working to end this harmful traditional practice. “Accelerating Change” uses a culturally sensitive approach to end FGM/C. The approach uses dialog and social networking that involves all groups within a community, including religious leaders and young girls themselves. Rather than having outsiders come in to condemn FGM/C, the program avoids alienating those who practice FGM/C, and instead brings them around to voluntarily give up the practice, because they understand how it harms their girls. With this approach, already more than 8,000 communities have chosen to abandon FGM/C.
Changing long-held customs and practices is never easy – but thanks to the program's quiet and respectful work with communities, change is possible, and accelerating, to end FGM/C in a generation.