Two million more women and girls at risk of female genital mutilation from Covid-19

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“We must act now to prevent this from happening,” called UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the Executive Directors of UNFPA. United Nations Population) and UNICEF, Dr Natalia Kanem and Henrietta Fore .

“I urge all governments, policy makers, civil society organizations and other actors to prioritize the fight against female genital mutilation in their national responses to Covid-19,” said Mr. Guterres.

The UN emphasizes that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a “terrible violation of human rights that affects the health and well-being of millions of women and girls around the world”.

This harmful practice is “both a form of gender-based violence and a child protection issue”. The elimination of FGM is essential “to end all forms of violence against women and girls and to achieve gender equality”.

The heads of UNFPA and UNICEF noted that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals aiming to end female genital mutilation by 2030 was already an ambitious commitment “before the Covid-19 comes to change the progress made ”.

Dr Natalia Kanem and Henrietta Fore , however, affirmed that “far from slowing down our ambitions, the pandemic has strengthened our determination to protect the four million women and girls at risk of genital mutilation each year”.

They thus put forward their three-part strategy: unite around proven strategies, finance them accordingly and act.

According to the UN, the fight against FGM requires the effort of many stakeholders, including global, regional, national and local decision-makers; civil society, from small local organizations and women’s rights groups to international non-governmental organizations; agents of change, including teachers and health workers as well as religious leaders and elders of local communities; as well as judicial authorities and law enforcement officials.

Boys and men also have a crucial role to play, underlines the UN while calling for amplifying “the powerful and persuasive voices of survivors who are more and more often at the origin of the profound changes that have taken place within their communities. communities ”.

The UN believes that efforts should be funded in proportion to commitments. Even in countries where female genital mutilation is already on the decline, progress must be increased tenfold.

To achieve the global goal of eliminating this practice by 2030, the UN estimates that some $2.4 billion will be needed over the next decade, or less than $ 100 per girl.

“It is a small price to pay to preserve a girl’s physical integrity, her health and her right to say ‘no’ to these violations,” said Dr Kanem and Ms Fore, noting, however, that “most of these funds has yet to be raised ”.

The United Nations is calling for swift, decisive action on multiple fronts simultaneously, from access to education, health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, and livelihoods. Laws, policies and new social norms also need to protect girls.

“Let us encourage adolescents to develop leadership skills and encourage them to develop their capacities to speak out and say ‘no’ to all forms of violence, including violent assaults against their bodies,” urged them. two agency directors.

The elimination of this practice and the pursuit of gender equality are interdependent and mutually reinforcing goals.

“Actions that end female genital mutilation will also support the capacities and empowerment of girls and women to exercise their rights, reach their potential and fully contribute to the life of their community and to their own future.” According to UNICEF and UNFPA.

If gender equality were a reality, female genital mutilation would not exist, according to the UN. “We know what works. We do not tolerate any excuse. We have had enough of this violence against women and girls, ”said Dr Kanem and Ms Fore .

“On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, we raise our voices to say: Enough! “, Launched his side the head of the UN.

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