World will miss target of ending FGM by 2030 without urgent action – including from men and boys

Joint Statement by UNFPA-UNICEF on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

06 February 2023

Abuja, 6 February 2023 – This year, 4.3 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation, according to latest estimates. This number is projected to reach 4.6 million by 2030, as conflict, climate change, rising poverty and inequality continue to hinder efforts to transform gender and social norms that underpin this harmful practice and disrupt programmes that help protect girls.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Nigeria. With an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide, with the risk of cutting highest in the first 5 years (86% of girls circumcised before age 5 - National Demographic and Health Survey 2018).

FGM prevalence in Nigeria is decreasing among women aged 15-49 according to data from the 2021 Multiple Indicator Survey (MICS) (18% to 15% 2016-17/2021). Similarly, the prevalence among girls aged 0-14 decreased from 25% to 8% during the same time period (MICS 2021). This significant decrease in prevalence among girls aged 0-14 is a welcome development, given that an estimated 86% of females aged 15-49 were subjected to FGM before the age of 5 (NDHS 2018).  At the same time, 12 states had a prevalence higher than the national prevalence, ranging from 9% in Edo to 35% in Kwara and Kano.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) violates the rights of women and girls and limits their opportunities for the future in health, education and income. Rooted in gender inequality and power imbalances, it is an act of gender-based violence that harms girls' bodies, dims their futures, and endangers their lives.

Changing gender and social norms that encourage FGM is critical. Men and boys are powerful allies in the effort. Increasingly they are challenging power dynamics within their families and communities and supporting women and girls as agents of change.

The UNFPA-UNICEF global Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM has supported over 3,000 initiatives within the last five years where men and boys actively advocate to bring an end to the practice. In Nigeria, since implementation began in 2018, UNJP has supported the engagement of 807 men’s and boys’ networks to actively advocate to bring an end to the practice. It has done this by providing opportunities and safe spaces for critical reflection on gender discrimination, power dynamics, positive masculinities and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education targeting men and boys, so they understand the consequences of FGM.

‘Men and boys remain key partners in addressing gender inequalities and harmful practices as we all collaboratively join hands to deliver the global promise of eliminating FGM by 2030’, said Ulla E. Mueller, UNFPA Resident Representative

‘As a result of our collective efforts, we are witnessing significant opposition from men and boys to FGM. Today, men and boys are more receptive to change than before, and in some communities, they are more likely to disapprove of female genital mutilation and domestic violence than women and girls’, said Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative

This year, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, we call on all stakeholders to:

  • Partner with and engage men and boys to shift unequal power relations and challenge the attitudes and behaviours caused by gender inequality that leads to FGM.
  • Integrate gender-transformative approaches and changing social norms into anti-FGM programmes.
  • Invest in national-level policies and legislation protecting the rights of girls and women, including the development of national action plans to end FGM.

Today is a reminder of the urgent need for even more targeted and concerted efforts to turn our shared goal of ending FGM into a reality. We must work together with all stakeholders – including men and boys – to protect the millions of girls and women at risk and consign this practice to history.

Media contacts

Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe
UNICEF Nigeria
Tel: +234 803 535 1254
Kori Habib
UNFPA Nigeria
Tel: +2348034500016

About the UNFPA–UNICEF Joint Programme

The UNFPA–UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation: Delivering the Global Promise works to eliminate female genital mutilation through interventions in 17 countries where the practice is prevalent. The programme creates opportunities for girls and women to realize their rights in health, education, income and equality to help end the power imbalances that underpin this harmful practice.


UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. UNFPA's mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA calls for the realization of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services.

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