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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs