February 7, 2023

4.6m at risk of female genital mutilation by 2030 – UNFPA, UNICEF

… As Nigeria ranks 3rd with 19.9m FGM survivors globally

… World missed 2030 target

By Chioma Obinna

No fewer than 4.3 million girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM; even as the number is projected to hit 4.6 million by 2030 as conflict, climate change, rising poverty and inequality continue to hinder efforts to transform gender and social norms that underpin the harmful practice and disrupt programmes that help protect girls.

According to estimates contained in a Joint statement by the UNFPA-UNICEF on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation,  FGM remains widespread in Nigeria.

The statement states that with an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide, with the risk of cutting highest in the first 5 years (86 per cent of girls circumcised before age 5 – National Demographic and Health Survey 2018).

However, the 2021 Multiple Indicator Survey (MICS) showed that FGM prevalence in Nigeria is decreasing among women aged 15-49 according to data from 18 per cent to 15 per cent in 2016-17/2021. Similarly, the prevalence among girls aged 0-14 decreased from 25 per cent to 8 per cent during the same time period (MICS 2021).

The duo of UNFPA and UNICEF stated that the significant decrease in prevalence among girls aged 0-14 is a welcome development, given that an estimated 86 per cent of females aged 15-49 were subjected to FGM before the age of 5 (NDHS 2018).

At the same time, 12 states had a prevalence higher than the national prevalence, ranging from 9 per cent in Edo to 35 per cent in Kwara and Kano.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) violates the rights of women and girls and limits their opportunities for the future in health, education and income. Rooted in gender inequality and power imbalances, it is an act of gender-based violence that harms girls’ bodies, dims their futures, and endangers their lives.

They noted that changing gender and social norms that encourage FGM was critical.

“Men and boys are powerful allies in the effort. Increasingly they are challenging power dynamics within their families and communities and supporting women and girls as agents of change.”

Speaking, Ulla E. Mueller, UNFPA Resident Representative said: ‘Men and boys remain key partners in addressing gender inequalities and harmful practices as we all collaboratively join hands to deliver the global promise of eliminating FGM by 2030’,

Also, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Cristian Munduate, stated: “As a result of our collective efforts, we are witnessing significant opposition from men and boys to FGM. Today, men and boys are more receptive to change than before, and in some communities, they are more likely to disapprove of female genital mutilation and domestic violence than women and girls.”

The duo on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM called on all stakeholders to partner with and engage men and boys to shift unequal power relations and challenge the attitudes and behaviours caused by gender inequality that leads to FGM.

They also demanded the integration of gender-transformative approaches and changing social norms into anti-FGM programmes.

 There is also the need to invest in national-level policies and legislation protecting the rights of girls and women, including the development of national action plans to end FGM.

 The due also reminded the world of the urgent need for more targeted and concerted efforts to turn their shared goal of ending FGM into a reality.

“We must work together with all stakeholders – including men and boys – to protect the millions of girls and women at risk and consign this practice to history,” they noted.

The UNFPA-UNICEF global Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM has supported over 3,000 initiatives within the last five years where men and boys actively advocate bringing an end to the practice.

In Nigeria, since implementation began in 2018, UNJP has supported the engagement of 807 men’s and boys’ networks to actively advocate bringing an end to the practice by providing opportunities and safe spaces for critical reflection on gender discrimination, power dynamics, positive masculinities and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education among others.