Uganda + 1 more

The Third Inter-Ministerial Cross-Border Meeting for Addressing FGM

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Remarks by Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNCEF Representative to Uganda

Over the past 19 months, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic brought home the fact that no person, no community, no country exists in isolation from the rest of the world.

We are all interconnected, for better and for worse.

As the rollout of vaccines lessens the dangers of COVID-19, all of us stand in the wreckage of what the pandemic has left in its wake:

  • Households collapsing under the burdens of lost incomes and livelihoods,

  • Educations and futures interrupted for children, with the heaviest burdens felt among the most disadvantaged,

  • Evidence of increased child abuse and gender-based violence, and

  • Growing data which suggests a massive spike in teenage pregnancies.

Surely, within the context of all this, the practice of female genital mutilation has not remained unaffected. Amid the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, we have seen that girls are viewed more and more through a sexual lens: they are subjected to early marriage, and sexual abuse and exploitation. The practice of FGM is certainly part of the sexual lens through which many communities view girls.

The latest data we have from before the pandemic shows real improvements in the reduction of FGM. The magazine that Uganda’s Ministry of Gender published before the conference documents the successes that all of us have achieved over the years. These successes have been thanks to your work on all fronts: passing laws that prohibit the practice; cooperating on cross-border enforcement; engaging communities in sustained ways at the village level; and increasing school enrolment among at-risk girls in recognition of the role that education plays in providing girls and their families with choices.

While we don’t yet have data on how the pandemic has affected FGM, it is quite possible that we will discover a reversal of some of the gains that were made in eliminating this practice. Over the next year, we will need to commit ourselves to robust data collection to understand the state of FGM post-COVID.

This will mean not resting on the laurels of our earlier achievements, but rather doubling down on our interventions and investments to ensure that any reversals do not become entrenched or permanent. We are at a fragile moment, and what we do over the next year will have profound implications for our countries and our people.

Fortunately, we have a head start through meetings like this one. We already know that, ultimately, we will rise or fall together—that achievements in Uganda, for instance, will not be sustainable without achievements across the border in Kenya.

In this regard, I would like to acknowledge His Excellency President Museveni, who has long recognized the importance of building an East African community—that development must be regional if it is to be sustained.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is a difficult period for all of us, with many challenges ahead. However, the strategic cooperation that I see from meetings like this gives me hope that together we can weather this storm, with girls, families, and communities coming out stronger, that in the future, FGM will soon become something of the past.

Thank you.

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