Members’ contributions to the ARP discussion

To emphasize the role of community participation for the success of ARPs, Bertine Pries from Amref underlined that within the past decade, 17,000 girls in the Maasai and Samburu communities have gone through the ARP program, which would not have been possible if cultural decision-makers and community gatekeepers had not taken ownership and leadership of the fight against FGM/C.

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How to act on the economic level?

In order to act on economic factors, female genital mutilation must no longer be considered as a criterion of eligibility for marriage, and marriage must no longer be seen as necessary to ensure the material survival and social acceptance of women. As a result, it is necessary to change the consciousness, material conditions and decision-making possibilities of women (1). Part of this involves empowering women through better education and improved employment opportunities. In this way, their survival is ensured even without marriage, and economic dependence is reduced (2).

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WHO’s costs calculation tool

On February 6th 2020 – the International Day Against FGM- the WHO’s cost calculation tool was launched in Brussels. It is available online following this link: The WHO FGM Cost Calculator estimates the current and projected financial health care costs associated with FGM in 30 specific countries, as well as the potential cost savings to health systems when reducing new cases of FGM.

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Assessing economic and societal costs

Research on the consequences and economic drivers of FGM is rare and an increase in focus on these areas would be clearly be beneficial. Most of the current research focuses on medical care, primariuly on obstetrics. The premises for a more systematic study of the economic drivers of FGM are gradually emerging.

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What can be done to tackle Cross Border FGM

At a national level Tighten national legislations around cross-border FGM and so that those who participate in any action that results in women and girls being moved between countries to be cut are punished. In this way, Felister Gitonga, project officer at Equality Now, Kenya has emphasized that: “The implementation of the Prohibition of FGM Act (2011) in Kenya has also contributed to an increase in cross border FGM. The law criminalizes cross border FGM under Article 21. Collaboration between community-based organisations, community policing agents and law enforcement agencies has intensified the enforcement of the law in Kenya with the authorities being very alert during the cutting season. Therefore community members opt to take children to Tanzania where the authorities are not very vigilant.”

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Working with Iranian and Iraqi Kurds

A member from WADI shared a special case on how Iraqi activists are penetrating Iran and pushing for an end to FGM. “We have a special cross border situation between Iraq and Iran, whereby on both sides of the border Kurds are affected (in the South the Arabs are also affected, but we don’t work there). It is especially difficult because there are no big donors who will fund projects in Iran. That having been said, Iran would not accept to have internationals working there or even a local NGO connected to internationals. The one positive thing is that Iraqi Kurdish television is very popular in Iran. So Iranian Kurds see our clips against FGM, talk shows etc. This launched the discussion in Iran before we started with cross border work. Today we were able to get some cross border work going. First, we invited Iranian activists and researchers to regional meetings. Since then, there has been an ongoing exchange between the Kurds in Iraq and Iran via conferences and workshops on how to combat FGM. One Iranian researcher was even invited to speak in the Iraqi Kurdish parliament. A psychologist from Iran comes t give trainings in Iraq, in order to teach our social workers about couple therapy for FGM victims. When the Iraqis or the Iranians have developed new material they make it available for use in both countries.

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The situation in specific countries

Five countries, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Somalia, account for almost a quarter of the 200 million women and girls worldwide who have undergone FGM (an estimated 48.5 million). While the prevalence of FGM among women aged 15–49 is 21% in Kenya, 98% in Somalia, 65% in Ethiopia, 10 % in Tanzania and only 0,3% in Uganda, a recent report by UNFPA Kenya note that communities across borders often have a higher prevalence (1). In the five countries, five different ethnic groups reside in more than one country (the Kikuyu, Kuria, Maasai, Pokot and Somalis). They share traditions and cultures, including the practice of FGM. A 2019 UNFPA report highlights the differences in the practice across and within countries in Eastern Africa, particularly with regards to the age of cutting. The report also outlines similarities in practice shared by ethnic groups across borders.

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