Sharing knowledge in communities to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation
Voices from the field on the National Day for Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt
In 2021, Egypt toughened the penalty against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), with non-medical individuals involved in performing genital mutilation facing prison terms for a period of no less than seven years in prison in case of permanent disability and not less than 10 years if the act leads to death.
The most recent amendments to the law stipulated that medical professionals such as doctors and nurses who are convicted of performing FGM face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. According to official figures, 7 out of 10 girls in Egypt are currently in danger of undergoing FGM.
There are many reasons that FGM is still practiced in some parts of Egypt including the fact that religious and community leaders encourage the practice, wrongly justifying it as a religious necessity. Families also view cutting as a way of protecting their daughter’s chastity and that it is a prerequisite for having a successful marital relationship.
UNICEF, under leadership of the government of Egypt, the National Committee for the Eradication of FGM and in collaboration with civil society, is undertaking and facilitating numerous interventions and initiatives to sensitize local communities and address misconceptions about FGM.
Recently, the National Council for Women (NCW) rolled out a knocking doors campaign targeting several governates including Assiut, Port Said, as well as North and South Sinai. The National campaign targets women, girls and families within the local communities through outreach workers’ visits to homes, markets and natural settings of women and girls.
Helwan, 61-year-old, traditional birth attendant from Abanoub Village
"The changes I have felt in my life in terms of personal beliefs and practices are leaving my job as a traditional birth attendant. Before the sessions started and in the first weeks of the sessions, I used to believe that FGM is a good thing to know a girls' virginity. I believed that if she does not undergo cutting, she will bring shame to her family. I didn't know that I was harming her by cutting some important parts of her body.
That was my profession but now I have left it because I learned that it is forbidden in our religion. I also thanked all the people who told me about the consequences of FGM and it is all because of this programme. To learn new things and share my experience with others, I requested my fellow Community Leaders to allow me to be part of their groups when they are having sessions to share my story, and that I hindered my granddaughter from cutting her own daughter.”
Mohamed Abdul Hakim, a teacher from Baheeg Village, Assiut
“Before I joined the sessions, and despite the fact that I hold a doctorate degree, I always followed what I saw my fathers and grandfathers do. I didn’t feel there was anything wrong with what we did. I was still following that norm until I came here and participated in these awareness sessions. I also had one of my daughters undergo the cut, but when I learned from the discussions how harmful it is, I now feel guilty about what I did to my daughter and I’m not doing it again to my younger daughters. I met many educated people in the group and now my eyes are opened.”
Doaa Abdul Naby, 19-year-old girl from Fateh Village, Assiut
"I was cut when I was 11 years old and so was my sister, but after attending the sessions and knowing about the hazards of FGM, I succeeded to convince my mother not to cut my younger sister. Also, we started sharing what we learned with other members of the community, especially to stop FGM and to inform our community about the negative psychological and physical consequences of this malpractice. We are targeting parents because we want them to know that FGM is a crime penalized by law.”
Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent human rights violation that causes profound and permanent harm to women and girls around the world. On 14 June, the National Day for eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, join us in calling for accelerated investments in programmes to end female genital mutilation and uphold the human rights of all women and girls living in Egypt.
Thanks to the generous contributions of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNICEF-UNFPA Joint Global Programme for Eliminating FGM which are supporting us to raise awareness around harmful practices such as FGM.