© UNICEF/Henry Bongyereirwe Men and boys are joining the effort to advocate against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Uganda.

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called on everyone including men and boys to join in speaking out and stepping forward to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) once and for all.

He spoke Monday while marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance against the scourge which remains a threat for a staggering 4.2 million girls this year.

He said Female Genital Mutilation is an “abhorrent violation of fundamental human rights”.

Guterres noted that the practice of genital cutting, prevalent in some cultures for more than a thousand years, causes lifelong damage to both the physical and mental health of women and girls.

“It is one of the most vicious manifestations of the patriarchy that permeates our world”, he added.

With more than four million girls at risk this year alone from the pernicious act of gender-based violence, urgent investment together with action is needed, so the world can reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of eliminating female genital mutilation by 2030, the UN chief said.

The Secretary General added that the practice was “rooted in the same gender inequalities and complex social norms that limit women’s participation and leadership and restrict their access to education and employment.

“This discrimination damages the whole of society, and we need urgent action by the whole of society to end it.”

As part of that, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency UNFPA, is partnering this year with UN Children’s Fund UNICEF on eliminating FGM in a campaign themed, Partnership with Men and Boys to transform Social and gender Norms to End FGM.

The agencies are calling for the international community to foster male engagement on just how harmful FGM is and uplift the voices of women and girls.

Initiatives already underway by the UN and NGO partners have already resulted “in a surge of male allies such as religious and traditional leaders, health workers, law enforcement officials, members of civil society and grassroots organisations”, the UN said, “and have led to notable achievements in the protection of women and girls.”

What is most needed is a commitment to social change, and strong partnerships, to end FGM, once and for all, he concluded.

The UNFPA and UNICEF joint programme to accelerate the elimination of FGM has been running since 2008, and focuses on 17 countries in Africa and the Middle East, and also supports regional and global initiatives.

Through the support of the programme, more than six million girls and women have received prevention, protection and care services, while around 45 million people have made public declarations to abandon FGM practices.

According to UNFPA’s annual report on FGM for 2021, more than 532,000 girls have been prevented from undergoing FGM.

However, UNFPA also estimates that there may be as many as two million cases of FGM by 2030, that would otherwise have been averted, attributable to the regressive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s still the case that around one in four girls and women worldwide or 52 million people have experienced FGM performed by health personnel, pointing to “an alarming trend in the medicalisation of female genital mutilation”, according to a UNICEF analysis in 2020.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) are launching two new tools to help health care providers give the best quality care to girls and women who have been subjected to female genital mutilation and to also support global efforts to end this harmful practice and human rights violation.

These are: Person-centred communication for female genital mutilation prevention: A facilitator’s guide for training health-care providers and Integrating female genital mutilation content into nursing and midwifery curricula: a practical guide

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