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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora