Governmental and Non-governmental Responses

Many intergovernmental organizations advocate for the abandonment of female genital mutilation. Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, collectively written by ten international agencies, affirms their “commitment to support governments, communities, and the women and girls concerned to achieve the abandonment of female genital mutilation within a generation.” The Interagency Statement emphasizes the need for a collective, coordinated approach at the community and national levels in order to create positive social change. The Interagency Statement has identified some promising strategies to achieve abandonment of female genital mutilation, such as empowering education through a non-threatening process for people to examine their beliefs and values related to the practice. Local religious and secular leaders should be included to sustain discussion and abandonment, while engaging all community members—women and men—in public dialogue about the consequences of female genital mutilation. A public pledge should be adopted to explicitly show the community’s commitment to ending female genital mutilation. The media should be used to provide information about female genital mutilation, its consequences, and ways to combat the practice. Finally, in communities where the practice is a “coming of age” ritual, alternative rituals need to be established to reinforce positive traditional values without using harmful genital mutilation. 


Other intergovernmental and nongovernmental agencies have dedicated resources to ending female genital mutilation. The World Health Assembly passed Resolution WHA 46.18 condemning female genital mutilation practices in 1993, and the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board adopted Resolution WHA 47.10, encouraging all its member states to abolish female genital mutilation, in 1994. In 2008, WHO renewed its commitment to eradicating the practice and urged its member states to accelerate the end of female genital mutilation, enact and enforce legislation protecting women and girls from genital mutilation, support and improve community-based efforts to end the practice, work with governmental, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to end the practice, formulate and promote guidelines for the care of those who have undergone female genital mutilation, and develop or reinforce social and psychological services for those who have undergone the practice. See: Resolution WAH61.16: Female Genital Mutilation, World Health Assembly (24 May 2008) (PDF, 3 pages). The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a $44 million program to decrease female genital mutilation practices by 40 percent in 16 countries by 2015. From: UNFPA, UNICEF Step Up Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, United Nations Population Fund (9 August 2007). The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC) committed to zero tolerance of female genital mutilation by the year 2010. From: International Day of Zero Tolerance, Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (accessed 14 March 2010).


The Female Genital Cutting Interagency Working Group of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) identified three “promising practices” in its December 2006 report, Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: An In-Depth Look at Promising Practices:


First, the Navrongo FGM Experiment by the Navrongo Health Research Center in Ghana set the goal of accelerating the elimination of female genital mutilation while investigating which of three different intervention approaches was most effective. This project focused on an area of northern Ghana where FGM is prevalent. The project included a multi-phased approach to study the attitudes and practices and experiment with different programs, and systematic intervention that engaged all parts of the communities. The project used a community-led approach based on alagube, a local term “connoting the process by which people solve a common problem by pooling their individual and community social resources.” They found, for example, that this approach for one year, combined with a program of FGM education, was associated with a 93 percent decrease in the risk of female genital mutilation. USAID noted that the Navrongo FGM Experiment’s strongest contribution was the “robust” evaluation techniques that measured actual changes in behavior instead of change in beliefs. 


Second, A Five-Dimensional Approach for the Eradication of Female Genital Cutting in Ethiopia by IntraHealth International and the National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia had a multi-faceted approach to encouraging elimination of female genital mutilation by focusing on health, gender, religion, human rights/law, and access to information. This project included national and regional workshops to discuss the issue and to sensitize governmental and other leaders, workshops to educate and mobilize regional leaders on the issue, grassroots teams assigned to mobilize community members, public declarations to ban female genital mutilation, and a forum of religious leaders for advocacy, which was important because of the traditional (and false) view that the practice is required by Islam. The successes of this project include laws to prohibit and punish the practice of female genital mutilation and public declarations by hundreds of government, community, and religious leaders to ban the practice.


Third, the Community Empowerment Program by Tostan is well-known for its eradication efforts. Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in the Wolof language, is based in Senegal, but has expanded into other African countries. Its community empowerment program focuses on human rights education and community development, and also addresses hygiene, health, literacy and management skills. The Tostan Method consists of over 200 sessions, taught in modules over two to three years, and has been provided primarily to women in rural communities. Several studies of the program have found it associated with changes in attitudes about female genital cutting and reductions in the practice.


For governmental responses to female genital mutilation, please see the Law and Policy section.


Compiled from: Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and World Health Organization (WHO) (2008) (PDF, 47 pages); Female Genital Mutilation: Information Kit, World Health Organization (WHO) (May 1999) (PDF, 50 pages); Female Genital Mutilation Resolution WHA61.16, World Health Organization (WHO) (24 May 2008); UNFPA, UNICEF Step Up Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (9 August 2007); International Day of Zero Tolerance, Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (accessed 14 March 2010); Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: An In-Depth Look at Promising Practices, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (December 2006) (PDF, 74 pages).