Africa: New Study Shows Community-Centered Approach with Legislation Effectively Reduces FGM
Thursday, December 9, 2010 3:40 PM

A new study conducted by the UNICEF Children’s Fund reveals that families are more likely to abandon the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) when certain conditions are established by efforts to end the practice. Successful approaches include programs that engage the entire community, including families and religious leaders, and that are coupled with strong legislative efforts. Additionally, when "discussion surrounding FGM/C is framed in a way that reinforces the positive aspects of local culture and builds community trust by implementing development projects that address local needs," communities are more likely to dismiss FGM, according to James Elder, spokesman for UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre. This multi-level, community-centered approach is found to be more successful than those that target individuals or appear to attack traditional customs.

Efforts focused on individuals and legislation have been shown to have little impact when the community is not part of the change. As a child protection specialist with UNICEF Kenya noted, “...girls belong to communities, and dealing with a girl as an individual has limitations if she then goes back to a community that still strongly believes in FGM/C.” Rescue centers for girls alone cannot solve the problem as these centers fail to address the root causes of the problem.

However, approaches supporting social change have had a marked impact on the reducing the prevelance of FGM in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In northern Sudan, the Saleema Campaign has eased communities into a discussion of FGM from a focus on parental care and family pride. The media has been cited as an important influence in giving voice to community debate in a number of countries. These sorts of tactics, which often include a consideration of broader societal practices, include the additional benefit of promoting the abandonment of other harmful practices such as child marriage.

Successful efforts also tend to counter prevalent myths about FGM by focusing on the fact that despite popular belief, no major religion requires FGM within its doctrine. Separating the practice from ideas about chastity and promiscuity also was found to be key in ending FGM. 

The full report can be accessed here: The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the abandonment of FGM/C in five African countries.

Compiled from: Africa: Holistic Approaches Key to Ending FGM/C - study,, (9 December 2010).