Female genital mutilation in Mali - Insights from a statistical analysis


Mali’s programmatic response to FGM

Mali’s programme to end FGM seeks to respond to the multidimensional drivers and consequences of the practice. Evidence suggests that high levels of FGM persist in the country due to the absence of a legislative framework prohibiting the practice, pressure from religious leaders to maintain the status quo, and social sanctions for those who reject the practice. UNICEF and its partners have developed a new and innovative country programme for Mali (2020-2024) that includes, as one of its objectives, a change in social norms and gender norms surrounding FGM.The success of this approach will be measured by whether there is an increase in the proportion of women and men who believe that FGM should be eliminated.The Ministry of Promotion of Women, Children and Family leads the initiative, with contributions from line ministries, community-based, civil society and non-governmental organizations, and other UN agencies.

The programme relies on the following evidence-based strategies:

  1. The design of approaches tailored to local contexts: The practice of FGM and the factors that sustain it vary in different localities; they are also strongly linked to ethnicity, religious beliefs, traditional rites and gender stereotypes. Programmes are therefore grounded in a deep understanding of local dynamics in order to identify relevant and effective entry points for social change.

  2. Leadership and coordination: Ending FGM hinges on political will and close cooperation at the national, regional and local levels. The National Programme to End Gender-Based Violence, which addresses FGM, coordinates stakeholders, provides leadership and holds partners accountable. Advocacy efforts are targeting the adoption of a law on gender-based violence, drafted in 2017, in order to criminalize FGM and other types of violence. Advocacy is also directed to ensuring that Mali is honouring its international commitments on these issues.

  3. Active community engagement: The voices, opinions and local knowledge of children and young people themselves, along with other community members, are sought in all efforts to eliminate FGM. Ongoing dialogues with girls, women, boys and men to reflect upon the practice, discuss solutions and recognize challenges is an important first step. Such dialogues are carried out through a participatory and gender-sensitive process, reinforced by communication campaigns through the media and social networks. This process is followed up at the community level by local ‘alert’ committees, which are mobilized when FGM procedures are being planned or executed.

  4. Girls’ empowerment: Special emphasis is placed on the empowerment of adolescent girls to help them build their capacity to promote changes in behaviour and social norms. Activities aim to develop life skills such as self-esteem and empathy, teaching young people to communicate constructively and effectively and to express their potential for change. In addition, both girls and boys are encouraged to play an active role in social mobilization and intergenerational dialogues as well as in student clubs where peers share information about the dangers of FGM.

  5. Communication for development and gender transformative approaches: Efforts are under way to challenge gender norms and sexist stereotypes in households, communities, schools and the media. The goals are to stem traditional beliefs about the need to control girls and women and to put an end to social impunity in the face of violence against them.

  6. Quality services: FGM-related services must effectively meet the needs of girls and be located in close proximity to those they are intended to serve. Girls and their families are encouraged to report incidents of FGM and to seek quality professional support to better cope with and resolve resulting physical or emotional trauma.