By Sharon Atieno

As the world celebrated International Women’s Day on 8th March, a new report shows that the pace in tackling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains slow and off-course in meeting the 2030 goal of ending the practice.

The report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals that FGM is on the rise, with more than 230 million women and girls undergoing the practice today. This is an increase of 30 million, about 15%, compared with figures from 2016.

“Female genital mutilation harms girls’ bodies, dims their futures, and endangers their lives,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director said in a statement.

“We’re also seeing a worrying trend that more girls are subjected to the practice at younger ages, many before their fifth birthday. That further reduces the window to intervene. We need to strengthen the efforts of ending this harmful practice.”

According to the agency, the global pace of decline worldwide would need to be 27 times faster to reach the 2030 target.

Thus, UNICEF is calling on communities and leaders everywhere to step up their efforts to end gender discrimination and inequality, urgently invest in services for girls, prioritize girls’ rights in laws and policies, and better track the prevalence of FGM using reliable data.

Though the report notes that FGM is not becoming more widespread, it revealed that the number of girls born in FGM-practicing countries is growing rapidly compared to the rest of the world.

The majority being recorded in African countries, accounting for 144 million cases, followed by 80 million in Asia and six million in the Middle East.

It added that four in ten FGM survivors live in impoverished or conflict-affected countries, which already have strained education and health services or where resources which could be used to address gender inequality are diverted towards crisis response.

Despite this, the report highlighted some progress being made in countries like Kenya, Sierra Leone and Egypt to end the practice.
It also noted that attitudes around FGM are also changing, with around 400 million people in practicing countries in Africa and the Middle East – or two-thirds of the population – being opposed to FGM.