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UNFPA urges the inclusion of males in fighting FGM

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Social Fgm Fight
Social Fgm Fight

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called for the inclusion of males in strategies to transform entrenched socio-cultural norms that give rise to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“Men and boys play a critical role in ending FGM. They are often decision makers within families and communities, and their attitudes and beliefs about gender norms and FGM are key factors in determining whether the practice continues or not,” it said.

Dr Wilfred Ochan, the UNFPA Representative to Ghana, made the call at Pusiga in the Upper East Region during the commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, on the theme: “Partnering with Men and Boys to Transform Social and Gender Norms to End FGM”.

The latest report by the UNFPA says 4.3 million women and girls were estimated to be at risk of FGM and the number was projected to reach 4.6 million by 2030 if nothing was done to address it.

The report attributed the rising cases to increasing conflicts, climate change, rising poverty and inequality that hindered efforts to transform gender and social norms underpinning the harmful practice and disruption in programmes aimed at protecting girls.

In Ghana, the prevalence rate of FGM is four per cent among women and girls aged 15 to 19, according to reports from the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and 2.4 per cent rate within the same year group, according to 2017/2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, showing a slight reduction.

However, the practice was on the ascendency in the Upper East Region, Dr Ochan said, and data from the Navrongo Health Research Institute in 2019 revealed a prevalence rate of 82 per cent and 62 per cent in girls aged 15 to 19 in the Pusiga District and Bawku Municipal, respectively.

He said the practice was deeply rooted in gender norms and certain cultures that continued to perpetuate harm, discrimination, and inequality among others against women and girls, and underscored the collective role of stakeholders to end it.

“By working in partnership with men and boys, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society, where women and girls are treated with dignity and respect. We can empower boys to be agents of change, challenging the harmful beliefs and attitudes that sustain FGM and promoting a new narrative of gender equality,” he said.

Dr Ochan reiterated UNFPA’s commitment to supporting government’s efforts in ending the dehumanising practice.

He called on religious and traditional leaders to join the fight to protect and promote the wellbeing of women and girls to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms Ingrid Mollestad, the Norway Ambassador to Ghana, said the practice of FGM was a violation of the universal human rights of women and girls and denied them the opportunity to explore their potentials for development.

She said the practice had, over the years, inflicted physical and psychological pain on victims, hence the importance to formulate policies at all levels to eliminate the practice.

“My government is committed to promoting sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, especially against FGM,” she said.

Mr Stephen Yakubu, the Upper East Regional Minister, in a speech read on his behalf, said FGM was a gender-based violence influenced by cross-border activities, and called on stakeholders, especially those in Bawku and Pusiga, to curb the practice.

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