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Press release

Female genital mutilation must end

UNICEF Calls on Governments to Honour Commitment to End the Discriminatory and Harmful Practice

NEW YORK, 6 February 2005 – UNICEF today reiterated its call on governments to move swiftly to stop the harmful practice of female genital mutilation and cutting.

“Female genital mutilation and cutting is a violation of the basic rights of women and girls,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said Friday, speaking on the eve of the International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation. “It is a dangerous and irreversible procedure that negatively impacts the general health, child-bearing capabilities and educational opportunities of girls and women.”

More than 130 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), a practice that occurs in countries ranging from Senegal and Mali to Yemen and Oman. FGM/C is also being performed in some parts of southeast Asia and reports from Europe, North America, and Australia show the prevalence of the practice among immigrant communities.

Bellamy said that ending all forms of FGM/C is crucial to the success of two of the Millennium Development Goals: improving maternal health and promoting gender equality. She reiterated UNICEF’s call on governments to abide by commitments to abandon the practice. The 2002 UN Special Session on Children, endorsed by 69 heads of states and government and 190 high level national delegations, set a goal to end female genital mutilation and cutting by the year 2010.

UNICEF believes that in order to end the practice, nations must build a protective environment for children – not only through education but also as part of overall economic and social development work. Comprehensive, culturally sensitive approaches are needed to address and begin to change community attitudes toward FGM/C, a deeply-rooted tradition that in many societies is believed to be a religious obligation.

Bellamy acknowledged the generous contribution of the Italian Government of 1.8 million Euro – received in 2004 - which will be used to strengthen coordination and partnerships, and to support the FGM/C abandonment program. The Italian Government contribution will be used at the regional level where FGM/C is prevalent.

For background:

UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre in Florence is in the process of preparing a digest on FGM/C which will be launched in the first half of 2005.

A majority of UNICEF offices in countries where FGM/C is prevalent are now working with communities towards the abandonment of FGM/C. Those offices include Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman.

UNICEF works closely with NGOs to put an end to FGM/C.  Partners include AIDOS, an Italian NGO, and No Peace without Justice.  Other NGOs include RAINBO, an African led International organization based in the UK and Tostan in Senegal.  The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, based in Addis Ababa, is also a key partner.

To Broadcasters:  B-roll is available at:  www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

For more information, please contact:

Kathryn Donovan, UNICEF New York, (212) 326 7452

Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York, (212) 326-7224




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