UKAID fosters bridge building to end FGM: A three-way flagship partnership

3 February 2017


  • Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell: Global Director, The Girl Generation
  • Dr. Nafissa Diop: Senior Adviser, UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme
  • Dr. Jacinta Muteshi: Programme Director, Population Council’s Evidence to End FGM/C research programme

Given the theme for this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation – Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030 – we could not help reflecting on a Nigerian proverb which says:

In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams

FGM is one such crisis. 

According to UNICEF reports, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries and 3 million are at risk every year, we are not even confronted by a ‘momentary’ crisis.

Rather it is a stubbornly societally enduring one with a truly global footprint that demands the construction of robust bridges between the key stakeholders trying to end the practice.

Leading the support for the Africa-led movement to end FGM is the UK’s Department of International Development with its multi-faceted programme that includes three key agencies and approaches:  

As the collective recipients of UKAID funding, we reflect today on what the theme of this year’s International Day means for what we do every day by sharing our key achievements to date and outlining what more needs to be done. 

The Girl Generation

At The Girl Generation, we have continued to strengthen the global movement to end FGM with a number of successes, including:

  • Galvanising nearly 400 member organisations who are working with us to accelerate social change to end FGM. This change is, for example, visible in The Gambia where, building on decades of work by committed activists, recently young campaigners have spearheaded a unified coalition for change that in 2015 resulted in the then president enacting a law banning the practice. 
  • Strategically investing in and supporting existing youth organisations able to mobilise their social capital and infrastructure. To date we have established three active youth networks in The Gambia, Kenya and Nigeria. These are driving forward their own action plans to end FGM with our ongoing support. We believe that amplification of social change – including how, where, and why FGM is ending – is critical to mobilising a global movement to end the practice, bringing in new actors and voices, and supporting social change at the national and local levels. 
  • Supporting ambassadors to be a public face for the end FGM message, for communicating evidence of change, and supporting them to speak on diverse platforms, such as in the media, at conferences and through online platforms. We are delighted to announce we have twelve End FGM Ambassadors working to further the cause of ending the tradition within a generation.
  • Making available small grants through the End FGM Grants Programme, which has also accelerated movement growth.
  • Providing training in social change communication to over 140 individuals representing member organisations in Kenya, Nigeria and The Gambia, including activists, youth, ambassadors and grantees from the End FGM Grants Programme. This training has exerted a catalytic and inspiring effect: from an initial 63 participants, training has now been cascaded to an additional 85 individuals in Kenya, Sudan and The Gambia.
  • Contributing to successful advocacy to include an indicator and global target on ending FGM in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals agenda. This is significant as it ensures that governments globally, and not just in selected countries, will be held accountable to end FGM.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C: Accelerating Change

The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C: Accelerating Change, launched in 2008, has similarly enjoyed tremendous success, including:

  • The Joint Programme supports the establishment and functioning of national coordination mechanisms in 17 countries positioning the elimination of FGM as a government-led policy priority. This is an important contribution in terms of enhancing ownership, ensuring complementarity and synergies among wide network of actors, and maximizing the use of resources for a systematic, meaningful and sustained effort to accelerate the campaign to end FGM.
  • In addition to strengthening government commitment, under the Joint Programme more than 18,300 communities and 33,000 families, approximately 25 million individuals, have publicly declared the abandonment of FGM, galvanizing and amplifying the social dynamics for the abandonment of the practice.
  • The provision of comprehensive quality prevention, protection and care services related to FGM made possible by the Joint Programme through partnership and collaboration with multi-sectoral partners, and existing service delivery structures is making a difference in the lives of girls and women. More than 1.5 million girls and women received appropriate services in countries supported by the Joint Programme from 2014 to 2016.
  • As of 2016, 13 of the 17 countries participating in the Joint Programme approved budget lines specifically dedicated to funding interventions to end FGM.
  • As a result of the Joint Programme’s policy advocacy efforts in partnership with civil society and communities, 13 of the 17 countries have national legislation criminalizing FGM. With a strong capacity development support, countries and communities are also making important progress in enforcing legislation. In 2015 and 2016, 569 arrests were made, 370 cases tried in court, and 112 convictions were reported.
  • At the global level, the Joint Programme is supporting normative policy reform and initiatives at the United Nations, including resolutions on FGM at the General Assembly and the introduction and reporting of Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality, which commits Member States to end FGM.

Population Council’s Evidence to End FGM/C research programme

Building on decades of research on FGM/C, the Population Council’s Evidence to End FGM/C research programme aims to:

  • Dramatically expand the body of evidence on the most effective and cost-effective approaches to ending FGM in different contexts.
  • Demonstrably influence strategic investments, policies, and programs to end FGM.
  • Contribute to ending FGM/C within a generation and reducing FGM by at least 30 percent in 10 countries within 5 years.

Preliminary evidence offers useful insights into the health impacts of FGM, and why the practice continues, but there is strong indication that the practice is in decline. This is very exciting since when we know what perpetuates the practice, we can design effective and appropriate interventions that can be implemented that can result in change.

Together to end FGM

Consolidating the successes of our collective efforts  and that of many other implementing partners across Africa, has given us hope that we can indeed end FGM in one generation. We are, however, conscious that our efforts, and that of the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), alone are not enough. 

Indeed, the biggest crisis facing the end-FGM campaign is weak partnerships and limited human and financial resources. We believe we will only address this crisis efficiently when policymakers, donors, activists, researchers, CSOs, and FBOs and those affected by the practice all over the world come together collectively to pursue our common goal.

As we mark this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, we should focus on building bridges not dams to overcome the crisis of FGM and that means working together as true and effective partners.

See all our Zero Tolerance Day infographics



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