ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia and its development partners have been urged to increase resources in the efforts to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) after Covid pandemic and conflicts threatened progress.
The call was jointly made by UNFPA and UNICEF in connection with the observance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance against FGM.
The day was marked on Sunday under the theme, ‘Accelerating Investment to End Female Genital Mutilation’.
“FGM is not only a vicious practice rooted in gender inequality, but it inhibits girls and women from unleashing their potential,” said Esperance Fundira, UNFPA Officer-in-Charge, in a joint statement.
“We must reiterate our full support for the accelerated implementation of the National Costed Roadmap to End Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation to end this harmful practice.”
Prevalence Remains High
The East African nation has made remarkable progress in the last decade in the reduction of FGM prevalence among girls and women aged 15-49 from 74 per cent in 2005 to 65 per cent in 2016.
However, it is still a home to 25 million circumcised women and girls.
This accounts for the largest absolute number in Eastern and Southern Africa and makes up 12.5% of the 200 million women and girls who have undergone FGM globally, said the two UN agencies.
The prevalence of FGM among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 has dropped from 62% in 2005 to 47% in 2016.
The National Costed Roadmap, which aims to end FGM by 2025, has an objective of sparing an estimated 3.6 million girls who are at the risk of undergoing FGM.
The Government is leading in costing and domestic financing the initiative pledging a 10% annual budget increment in funding its Roadmap for FGM and child marriage.
This is “critical in decreasing dependence” on external funding and assuring sustainability, the agencies noted.
“We congratulate the Government for their efforts to end FGM by 2025 but we must collectively renew our commitment to ending this harmful practice,” stressed Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Ethiopia Representative.
Rotigliano also called for the collective effort to focus also on changing “attitudes so that the next generation of girls can live healthier lives.”
Attitudes towards the harmful practice are shifting with more than 7 in 10 girls now opposing its continuation, according to the UN agencies.
Innovative ideas Needed
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent conflicts in the country have threatened the gains made in reducing the prevalence and indeed ending FGM.
This is mainly due to community mobilization activities including community conversations have been restricted, the UN agencies said.
“Thus, adoption of innovative strategies such as the use of face masks, personal hygiene, social distancing, and reducing the number of participants in community outreach activities and others were critical in addressing the challenge,” the duo added.
Featured Image Caption: Seen in 2018 photo, Fatuma Abdu who learned about the impacts of FGM/C after her first delivery, refused to have her daughters go through the same procedure. [Photo UNICEF/Martha Tadesse]