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Sudan commemorates International Day against Female Genital Mutilation

KHARTOUM, 6 February 2009 - As the world commemorates International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation today, UNICEF has commended efforts by Sudan’s Government of National Unity, civil society and local communities to bring an end to the practice in the country.

“The dangers that female genital mutilation and cutting create for girls and women have been recognized by the government, religious leaders, health professionals, community elders and individual families in Sudan, and we applaud the collective efforts now being taken to eradicate the practice entirely,” noted UNICEF Acting Representative Dr. Iyabode Olusanmi.

“It is unacceptable that any girl should face this dangerous and unnecessary violation of her rights,” she added.

UNICEF estimates that some 70 million girls and women in 27 countries in Africa and the Middle East have undergone female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). The practice often results in death and has a detrimental impact on the health and development of those who do survive. In Sudan, estimates from the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey indicated that FGM/C affects about 69 per cent of girls and women.

In 2008, Sudan’s Government of National Unity endorsed a national strategy to abandon FGM/C within a generation. Recent efforts have focused on raising public awareness of the dangers associated with the practice and encouraging communities and respected individuals to publicly commit to its abolition. Five communities in Gedaref and Khartoum States announced their commitment to end FGM/C during 2008, while a further ten in North Kordofan and Kassala have announced their intention to abandon the practice this year.

110 religious leaders in Sudan have openly declared FGM/C to have no association with the Islamic faith or practices and called for its eradication.

In South Kordofan state, a new law came into force in 2008 which outlawed the practice in the state.

Meanwhile a mass public education campaign is underway across the northern states of Sudan, where the practice is most prevalent, to raise awareness amongst families of the value and beauty of an uncircumcised girl. Built around the concept of “Saleema” – a traditional Sudanese girl’s name that also means “whole” – the campaign has already reached an estimated 7 million people through mass media, animations, drama, song, comic books and community discussions. The campaign is being led by the Sudan National Council for Child Welfare, supported by UNICEF, the Global Trust Fund and the European Union.

“These efforts are proving critical in moving us towards a point when no girl is circumcised in Sudan,” said Dr. Olusanmi. “We hope that by the year 2018 the practice will have been completely abandoned, as families come to understand that female genital mutilation and cutting has no religious or social value, and ultimately put a girl’s life at risk.”

A number of events organized by the Sudan National Council for Child Welfare will take place next week to continue to draw attention to the issue of FGM/C in Sudan, including a series of workshops, theatre shows, radio and television spots and community celebrations focusing on the message “Let every girl grow up saleema.”

For more information on female genital mutilation and cutting, and the threats posed to girls and women by the practice, visit www.unicef.org/protection/index_genitalmutilation.html.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, Chief, Media and External Relations, UNICEF Sudan Country Office, Office:     +249 183 471 837 (Ext 604],Email: ecarwardine@unicef.org




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