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Female Genital Mutilation

© Unicef Burkina Faso/2007/Tarpilga C.
Children participation in the fight against female genital mutilation/cutting remains capital

UNICEF and partners on the frontline against Female Genital Mutilation control

In the past, female genital mutilation (FGM) had been a hidden, mysterious subject in Burkina Faso. Increasingly now people have come to understand the negative effects of this tradition, with the result that there has been a rapid drop in the prevalence rate.

In 2005 only 25% of girls in Burkina Faso underwent FGM, compared to 66.35% in 1996—a 40% decrease in less than a decade.

This significant progress in the fight against FGM is a direct result of the commitment of the political authorities, and the involvement of traditional and religious leaders, NGOs and various associations, with support from technical and financial partners.

A strategic communication plan was put in place, accompanied by intense lobbying, technical capacity building and institutional support. Happily, these strategies have been quite successful. As a result:  

- A law was passed on November 13, 1996 outlawing FGM. (Law n 043/96/ADP dated November 13th 1996)

- May 18 is celebrated every year as the National Day to combat FGM. The visible support of opinion leaders, traditional chiefs and religious authorities has been extraordinarily influential in highlighting the problem and leading to its decrease

- The government now views FGM as more than a traditional practice, but as an issue about public health, violence and individual rights.

A drop has been recorded in FGM since 2001, when WHO conducted a survey in some areas of Burkina Faso. Estimates show that the rates of prevalence over the past five years have gone down to 6.5% for children aged 0-4; 16.3% for those aged 5-10 and 43.6% for girls aged 11-20. The prevalence rate has fallen significantly compared to the initial estimate of 66.35% in 1996.

But there are still some serious challenges in the fight against FGM in Burkina Faso:

- Cross border migration of populations from countries in which the practice is still common means there are portions of the population whose children still undergo FGM/C.

- A new element of FGM/C in infants has arisen. This de-linking of the practice from the initiation rites which would have occurred later is attributable to the far-reaching effects of the new law banning FGM. Parents are aware of and afraid of the consequences of breaking the law and have their daughters circumcised before they are able to talk and draw the attention of the authorities. 

- The persistence of taboos, as well as cultural tendencies, even among some who are in charge of the welfare of children, which tend to trivialize violence against children.

UNICEF continues to work in several areas:

-         Sensitizing the population to the negative consequences of FGM/C;

-         Training doctors in techniques for mending FGM/C scarring and supporting clitoral restoration.

-         Training birth attendants in recognizing FGM scarring and in how to treat women who have undergone the procedure;

-         Supporting sensitization and deterrent patrols by the local police

-         Providing technical and financial support to the government’s plan to stamp out the practice of FGM/C by 2010.




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