News / Africa

    Summit Calls for Urgent End FGM and Child Marriage

    Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, KenyaMasai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya
    x
    Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya
    Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Kim Lewis

    At a first-ever Girl Summit in London, UNICEF released studies showing more than 130 million girls and women in Africa and the Middle East have experienced some form of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more than 700 million women in the world today were married as children. 

    The summit was sponsored by UNICEF and the government of the United Kingdom, to show the need for urgent action to end the two practices. The global chief of child protection for UNICEF, Susan Bissell, said the impetus for the conference was that there was an agreement between the two sponsoring institutions that “we need to up our game.

    “We need to draw more attention to the related issues of female genital mutilation and cutting and child marriage, and we need to provide a platform for everyone around the world - organizations, individuals, government to commit themselves to eradicating harmful practices.”

    A large international delegation of youth was joined by UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake and Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron.

    Severe healthy risks of genital mutilation

    The latest data released at the summit was collected from 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is most prevalent.  UNICEF officials say girls who undergo FGM are at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death, in addition to the extreme physical and psychological pain caused by the practice.

    The new data on women who marry when they are children is equally compelling. “Over seven million women in the world today were married as children,” says Bissell.  “So it’s quite astounding statistics. 

    “Now the good news is that data also tells us that these practices are on the decline,” says Bissell. However, she says if they only sustain current rates of decline as seen over the last three decades, the number of women married as children will remain flat to 2050.

    “So, we will not see progress if we only move ahead the way we are right now,” says the child protection chief.

    How to double reductions in both practices

    One example of FGM reduction is found in Kenya and Tanzania where the rates of FGM have dropped by one-third of levels experienced three decades ago.

    “Today, a girl is a third less likely to be cut than she was 30 years ago,” says Bissell.  “So it’s possible to achieve change. But we mustn’t be frightened by the magnitude of the problem because we have solutions.  But at the same time we have to say this is a wake-up call. 

    “What kind of a world do we want for our girls by the year 2050?  We certainly don’t want another 700 million of them married as girls.”

    The message from the summit, she says, is that a lot more has to be done on the local level to achieve the goal of doubling the reduction of occurrences of FGM and child marriages. Increased local community activism is key to changing local perceptions and escalating the pace of reduced FGM practices. That activism can also encourage young girls to stay in school and complete a secondary .

    “Change happens from the inside out, from that community leadership,” says Bissell. “It requires collective change.” Bissell describes the social process. “If there’s a community A here, community B, over there, and if A and B can get together and agree, ‘We’re not going to marry off our girls--actually, we’re going to get all of our girls into school and keep them in there…’”

    “These are the messages that we want to get out there,” Bissell says, “and what we think will happen, what most certainly will happen is we’ll also see a decline in maternal and newborn child deaths, by addressing child marriage.”

     

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.