It is deeply saddening, worrying but even more so infuriating that article headlines such as “One Female Genital Mutilation case reported every hour in the UK” or “Girls in Kenya are hiding in school over Christmas for fear of female genital mutilation at home” are still written based on girls’ current reality somewhere in this world. I am not sure what infuriates me the most; whether it is as a woman myself trying to fathom the level of pain endured as a “passage right to womanhood” or whether it is the precarious junction of “education meets tradition”.
According to UNFPA data, approximately 200 million girls and women who are alive today have been subjected to a form of FGM. These girls and women predominantly live in sub-saharan Africa, the Arab States, few countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Cases of FGM have also been registered among migrant populations in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The current statistics estimate 68 million girls will be cut between the years 2015 and 2030 in 25 countries noted for routine FGM practices. At these rates, in the year 2030, an estimated 4.6 million girls will undergo FGM. (unfpa.org)
While I am by no means trying to eliminate one’s culture, tradition or belief system, I am questioning “what” we call “tradition”. How do we stop calling something that so blatantly causes an unimaginable amount of pain, has no health benefits and cause subsequent ailments “tradition”? How do we continuously raise awareness, education and funds to end this practice? While this may seem like questions with obvious answers, I really don’t think it is that binary.
The UNFPA admits “A key challenge is to not only protect girls currently at risk but also ensure that those born in the future will be free from the dangers of this practice.” (unfpa.org)
I believe, to ensure future generations are free from the dangers of this practice, we need to transform mind-sets, educate communities and therefore redefine “tradition”.
PhD candidate, co-founder of Northwest Biotech Initiative & EDD young leader editorial board
20 Year old Arifa Nasim, Founder and Executive Director of Educate2Eradicate shared her answer with our team:
"Firstly, LISTEN to survivors, they know what they are talking about. Second, COLLABORATE with other activists; we are stronger together. Thirdly, stop being afraid of the word ‘vagina’ and female genitalia, and START a conversation. Break the taboo that is costing girls their lives and raise awareness by informing others. Together, we can educate the world to eradicate FGM forever."
The theme of the 2018 edition of the European Development Days is "Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development" and so in honouring that, let's listen, collaborate and start the necessary conversations to rid the world of this terrible act.