Sixth in a series by John Coonrod, PhD, for #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.

According to the World Health Organization, “Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional harmful practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

WHO estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in the countries where the practice is concentrated. In addition, every year, an estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM, the majority of whom are cut before they turn 15 years old.

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has set a target to abandon the practice of female genital mutilation by the year 2030. That goal was emphasized at the 2019 Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 with a commitment to a decade of action.

Tostan, one of the founding members of the Movement for Community-led Development is well respected for its pioneering work on its community-led approach to addressing the complex cultural and behavioral changes required to eliminate Female Genital Cutting. In an interview with Kenya-born community activist and FGM survivor Naima Dido. She says, “I believe in the power of change being community-led and dignity-centered, such as the approach used by Tostan. By using a human rights-based approach, Tostan puts emphasis on respecting and including everyone in the community, engaging not only women and girls but also men, elders, and religious leaders.”

On February 6, 2020 – the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Multilation, the heads of UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF issued a joint declaration to “unleash youth power” to accelerate action towards zero FGM. “This requires including young people as partners when designing and implementing national action plans, building relationships with youth-led organizations and networks that work to end female genital mutilation and recognize it as a form of violence against women and girls, empowering young people to lead community campaigns that challenge social norms and myths, and engaging men and boys as allies.”