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A rising number of girls are at risk of being exposed to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Ethiopia according to UNICEF and UNFPA. The two UN agencies stated that they will be working together for strengthened efforts and underlined the need for increased investment and higher political commitment to end the problem.
“To accelerate the elimination of the practice, we need to work at the grassroots level, at scale and hand-in-hand with communities – boys and girls, women and men, and most importantly, traditional and religious leaders – to reach the hearts and minds of millions of people. We also believe that it is important to address the health and psychological complications caused by FGM/C by providing the necessary health services to help survivors lead a healthy life,” said UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Gillian Mellsop.
In Ethiopia, the government expressed its commitment to ending FGM/C and child marriage by the year 2025 at the London Girls’ Summit in 2014 and committed itself to reducing the practice to 0.5 per cent by 2020 in the Growth and Transformation Plan. The Government has also taken key programmatic actions which include endorsement of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Harmful Traditional Practices against Women and Children as well as establishment of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and FGM/C.
“We have seen that rates of female genital mutilation can drop rapidly in places where the issue is taken on wholeheartedly by governments, by communities, by families. Where social norms are confronted, village by village, where medical professionals come together to oppose the practice, where laws are enacted to make it a crime and where those laws are enforced. Where wider access to health, education and legal services ensure sustainable change. Where girls and women are protected and empowered to make their voices heard,” said Ms. Bettina Maas, UNFPA representative to Ethiopia.
The Sustainable Development Goals recognize that female genital mutilation undermines progress towards a more equal, just, and prosperous world. They set an ambitious target of eliminating all such harmful practices against girls and women by 2030. UNICEF and UNFPA globally devoted the theme of the year 2018 – “Ending Female Genital Mutilation is a political decision” – to engaging government bodies and policy makers to join efforts.
The 2016 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey shows a declining trend in FGM/C from 74 percent in 2005 to 65 per cent in 2015 in the age group 15-49 years, and from 62.1 percent to 47 percent in the 15-19 year old age group. The survey also shows a more significant decrease in the younger age cohort compared to the older: prevalence is 75 percent in the age group 35-49 years, 59 percent in the 20-24 year age group, and 47 per cent in 15-19 year olds.