The first US summit to end female genital mutilation

Survivors, activists, donors and stakeholders gather in Washington, D.C.

Posted in: Harmful Practices , Uncategorised

Ending FGM is difficult but possible; we need to combine grassroots movements for change, robust policy and funding commitments.

It might surprise some of us to learn that female genital mutilation, FGM in modern acronym form, has a long, medicalised history in the United States. Throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, FGM was performed by physicians to ‘treat’ a range of conditions – from hysteria to nymphomania. Hard to believe? Perhaps. But this legacy has provided systemic cover for the continuation of the practice right into the 21st century.

Whilst the Centres for Disease Control note a decline in the frequency of the practice since the turn of the century, increased immigration from high prevalence countries has caused a marked increase in the number of women and girls at risk of FGM in the US. Of the 513,000 women and girls now believed to be at risk, 55% come from Egypt, Somalia or Ethiopia.

In late 2016, HDF grantees Equality Now and Safe Hands for Girls partnered with the United States Institute of Peace to host the first ever US-based End Violence Against Girls Summit on FGM/C, in Washington, D.C. Held alongside the annual meeting of the FGM/C Donor Working Group, the summit was an opportunity to bridge the gap between donors, civil society, and survivors.

To actually put an end to FGM, there is a clear need to combine grassroots movements for change, robust policy and funding commitments. To that end, the End FGM Summit launched the End FGM/C US Network – a group that will coordinate and lead the fight to end FGM throughout the United States.

“We cannot be silent, we cannot afford to watch from a distance and turn a deaf ear to a human rights violation that has seen over 200 million girls and women mutilated.”

Mary Wandia

End Harmful Practices Program Manager, Equality Now

The momentum generated by summits like this is the lifeblood of change. At the heart of the movement to end FGM are the survivors who represent the most vulnerable and at risk – those without a platform to speak. Activists like Jaha Dukureh and Leyla Hussein encapsulate the resilience, humanity and vision that is required to end FGM. The summit culminated in a reception presenting the Faces of Defiance, a series of empowering portraits curated by activist Leyla Hussein that tells the personal stories of women who have survived, or been impacted by, female genital mutilation.

The End Violence Against Girls Summit on FGM/C gathered over 200 guests from 22 countries – survivors, activists, donors and policy experts – to explore practical steps to end FGM within the US and abroad by 2030. An ambitious aim no doubt, but the young women and girls at risk cannot afford to wait. Download the full report.