What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful practice. It includes all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM can cause severe pain, bleeding, problems urinating, cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth, and even death.

The psychological effects of FGM can include post-traumatic stress and depression. FGM is an expression of gender inequality and a form of gender-based violence, as the UN recognises in its 2012 resolution calling for the global elimination of FGM.

Read the UN's factsheet on FGM.

How many women and girls are affected by FGM? 

Over 200 million women globally have been affected by FGM, according to a UNICEF study. Approximately 3.6 million more girls are at risk every year. 

Where is FGM practiced? 

FGM is practiced in more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and due to migration it is also practiced in Europe, the Americas, and Australia. FGM is a global issue transcending cultural, religious and political boundaries. 

How old are girls when they undergo FGM? 

It varies depending on the community, but FGM is usually carried out on very young girls between infancy and the age of fifteen. The majority of girls are cut before the age of five. 

What are the health consequences of FGM? 

FGM causes many negative health effects, including severe pain, bleeding, problems urinating and menstruating, cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth, and sometimes death. The psychological effects of FGM are also severe and can cause post-traumatic stress and depression.

Why is FGM still practised?

FGM is a social norm in many countries. In other words, people practice it because their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers have practised FGM for centuries.

Some of the reasons given for the practice include preserving virginity until marriage, decreasing a woman’s sexual desire, signalling a rite of passage into womanhood, and preparing a girl for marriage. In many communities a girl is seen as being ready for marriage once she has undergone FGM, which is why there is a link between FGM and child marriage.  

Can FGM really end in a generation? 

Change is happening, and there is a wider global shift towards the abandonment of FGM. Since the Millennium Development Goals (the previous set of goals that the Global Goals replaced in 2016) came into effect in 2000, great strides have been made towards ending FGM once and for all.

14 African countries for which data are available show a decline in FGM when comparing the youngest women (aged 15-19 years) with older women (aged 45-49 years) – though in 15 other countries there is no evidence of a decline.

In 2012, the United Nations issued a global ban on FGM. In Kenya, FGM prevalence rates dropped from 27 percent to 21 per cent between 2010 - 2015. In 2015 alone, both Nigeria and The Gambia made FGM illegal.

Also in 2015, important world figures like U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope Francis condemned FGM as a form of violence against women and girls. Imagine the change that can happen in the next generation if the global movement works together in solidarity. 

What to do if you think someone is at risk of FGM

While FGM is not against the law in all countries, it is a harmful practice which is internationally recognised as a form of violence against women and girls. If you think someone is at risk, please contact The Girl Generation who can signpost you to support within your country.

Contact The Girl Generation


The Girl Generation FAQs 

What is The Girl Generation? 

The Girl Generation is a social change communications initiative. We seek to inspire organisations and individuals, including youth, across the most affected countries in Africa and beyond, to end FGM in one generation.

We are driven by the conviction that for FGM to end there needs to be a positive transformation in the way that girls are valued, and in the beliefs and social norms that underpin FGM. Communication has the power to positively influence the very fabric of society and communities. 

What is social change communications? 

Social change communication to end FGM is an approach to communication that speaks to the motivations behind the practice of FGM, and identifies the very real personal and social barriers that hinder abandonment of FGM. It provides positive alternatives, opens up debate and discussion in the public sphere, prompts individuals to question their acceptance of the practice, and increasingly builds confidence to speak out against FGM.

Social change communication speaks to transformation in the way that girls are valued, and in the beliefs and social norms that underpin FGM. This is not about simplistic messages or lecturing people about what they should and shouldn’t be doing – this is dialogue that addresses the motivations behind the practice, and identifies the very real personal and social barriers that hinder abandonment of FGM. 

Our Do No Harm guidelines informs how we use social change communications.

Do No Harm Guidelines

Why use social change communications

  • Uses locally-led and culturally relevant communications methods to spark discussion and dialogue, inspiring individuals and communities to question their own beliefs
  • Supports and accelerates wider behaviour-change efforts, creating an enabling environment for community-based interventions and broader policy and legal reforms, and amplifying change where it is happening
  • Addresses the social and psychological drivers and motivations behind FGM
  • Encourages positive alternatives rather than simply condemning the practice and those who support it
  • Increases the public space for dialogue on the issue, raising its importance on the public agenda, giving confidence to those affected to speak out
  • Accelerates change at a local level by increasing global, regional and national solidarity and momentum for change

Does The Girl Generation offer funding?

Yes. In May 2016, The Girl Generation launched a new End FGM Grants Programme to increase momentum towards ending FGM. The programme, funded by the Human Dignity Foundation, provides much needed support to poorly-resourced grassroots organisations working to end FGM.

At present, the grants are available in Kenya, Nigeria and The Gambia, and will be gradually rolled out across The Girl Generation's other focal countries.

End FGM grants