A cultural conundrum

Practices harmful to children are a fundamental contravention of their rights – whether the right to health, the right to education, or the right to be protected from physical or psychological harm, mistreatment and exploitation. However, the reality is that harmful practices are widespread and persistent. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is no exception. FGM is integrated into social norms and cultural practice. As such, solutions need to be informed by local knowledge, locally-led and founded in children’s rights above all else.

Making the local, global, and the global, local

Advocacy and legislation informed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a hugely important part of the struggle to end FGM and other harmful practices, but legislation can’t change behaviour alone. The key to long term shifts in behaviour is a willing shift in social norms; a shift in cultural practice that proudly retains cultural relevance and prioritises the rights of the child.

To do this at scale requires not just an investment in the grassroots, but a recognition that understanding ‘what works’ is only valuable if you can incorporate this understanding into a network of initiatives tackling FGM and other harmful practices in myriad cultural settings. To maximise these efforts we need to look beyond isolated projects to multi-layered initiatives that channel grassroots knowledge to international networks, and bring the lessons of global experience back to grassroots activities.

HDF’s role

For over a decade HDF has prioritised two harmful practices that have a hugely detrimental impact on children in the societies in which they are prevalent – FGM and child, early and forced marriage. HDF is prioritising FGM throughout our final phase of funding. At least 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM in 30 countries, and a further 4 million are at risk every year. Our partners combine community engagement, media campaigns, leader training and research in pursuit of a world without FGM.