ICRW releases white paper and policy brief on female genital mutilation/cutting

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Last week in Washington, DC, ICRW released a new whitepaper that examines the linkages between female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and girls’ education. ICRW also released a policy brief that outlines possible steps to be taken by the U.S. government to combat FGM/C worldwide.

The whitepaper and policy brief were released at an event at the United States Institute of Peace, where more than 200 expert educators, medical providers, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, FGM/C survivors and others were gathered to begin to lay groundwork for an intensified global strategy that will be required to end this human rights violation by 2030.

FGM/C is defined as a practice that involves the complete or partial removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Worldwide, estimates indicate that more than 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM/C and more than three million girls and women are currently at risk of FGM/C. With the global population expected to rise in countries where FGM/C is concentrated, the number of women and girls at risk of FGM/C annually is expected to increase to about four million by 2050.

In the whitepaper, ICRW’s experts unpack the root causes of FGM/C, including deeply-rooted gender norms around the value of girls, and lay out some of the most important factors that protect girls from being subject to FGM/C, including education. ICRW takes a closer look into the evidence on the linkages between FGM/C and found that there is a dearth of evidence, but the available evidence suggests a relationship between FGM/C and school dropout.

The whitepaper explores U.S. investments in ending FGM/C, noting which investments have specifically targeted FGM/C, highlighting that given that the U.S. is one of the largest donors on education and global health, there are ample opportunities, including Let Girls Learn and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which can be leveraged to target investments toward ending FGM/C. The authors also highlight some promising interventions worthy of investment, including community wide campaigns, school-based interventions, efforts to create alternative rites of passage, and using the media and arts to combat FGM/C.

“This paper sheds new light on the linkages between education and the global goal of ending female genital mutilation and cutting, which the international community has agreed to do by 2030,” said Lyric Thompson, Director of Policy and Advocacy at ICRW. “As a leading global donor on basic education that has come out strong on the importance of educating and empowering girls at home and abroad, the United States has an opportunity to leverage these investments to end FGM/C.”

The policy brief takes a deeper dive recommendations for how the U.S. can focus on ending FGM/C, including the following:

  • Congress should incorporate FGM/C and education linkages in any education-related legislation;
  • USAID should include a greater focus on gender equality and barriers to girls’ education, including FGM/C, in the update to its Education Policy, which previously focused insufficiently on gender and on secondary education, the level at which most girls are at risk; and
  • All participating agencies should fully implement the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, setting out explicit efforts to end FGM/C within those efforts.

For a full list of recommendations for the U.S. government, click here.