Accelerating Change: By the Numbers - 2016 Annual Report of the UNFPA–UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

from United Nations Population Fund, UN Children's Fund
Published on 14 Aug 2017 View Original


As the largest global programme addressing FGM/C, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Accelerating Change plays a critical role in achieving Target 5.3 which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices by 2030, under the Sustainable Development Goal 5.

In 2016, the Joint Programme completed the third year of Phase II. Substantial progress was made across the three focus areas of intervention. All the countries supported by the Joint Programme have put in place a functional national coordination mechanism, and have continued to implement an integrated and comprehensive approach towards galvanizing the new social norm of keeping girls intact. Implementation in Yemen, however, was limited as a result of the dire political and humanitarian situations faced by the country.

Three important targets for Phase II have already been accomplished, along with other significant achievements, as outlined below.

Policy and legal environment

Although no additional countries supported by the Joint Programme adopted legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in 2016, important progress has been made. This includes amendment of law to tighten the penalty on perpetrators (Egypt), endorsement of an amendment to the Criminal Act by introducing a new article criminalizing FGM/C by the Council of Ministers (Sudan), passage of the Children Act Amendment into law and a National Policy on Elimination of Gender Based Violence (GBV) that recognizes FGM/C as a form of GBV (Uganda), and adoption of bills that ban FGM/C and impose legal sanctions for perpetrators by the Council of Ministers on GBV and Reproductive Health (Mauritania). All these achievements resulted from many years of advocacy by national stakeholders, in collaboration with multiple actors and activists.

With action by Mauritania and Uganda, the number of countries establishing national budget lines to specifically address FGM/C increased from 10 in 2015 to 12 in 2016. As a result, this year, the Joint Programme has met and surpassed the overall target for this indicator.

During the year, 90 individuals were arrested, 253 cases of FGM/C were brought to court and 77 individuals were convicted. Countries are incrementally strengthening and improving the implementation of legislation on FGM/C – important steps towards ending impunity for perpetrators. The effort made in the Gambia to prosecute a case just two months after the introduction of legislation banning FGM/C is an encouraging step forward.

Provision of quality services for protection and care

In 2016, more than 1.5 million (1,547,378) girls and women received services for protection and care related to FGM/C, bringing the total number of girls and women who have received services since 2014 to nearly 2.4 million. Thus, the target for Phase II has already been achieved.

Galvanizing community movements towards social change

In 2016, more than 3,000 communities, involving nearly 8.5 million individuals, made public declarations of abandonment of FGM/C. This brings the total number of public declarations to more than 6,000, and the number of individuals reached to more than 18 million since the start of Phase II in 2014. In addition, more than 1,000 Egyptian families have declared abandonment of FGM.

Regional dynamics to support countries efforts

In addition to providing technical support and facilitating programme implementation at the country level, UNFPA and UNICEF Regional Offices have continued activities at the regional level. Some of their initiatives include the following.

Regional and national networks of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in the Arab States

A regional FBO network was operationalized during a regional meeting organized in Khartoum, Sudan. Four national FBO networks were also established – in Djibouti, Egypt, Somalia and Sudan. The networks help ensure solidarity among members, and align and reinforce efforts and ideas in support of the abandonment of FGM/C in the region.

Partnership with the Pan African Parliament in ending FGM/C

More than 50 parliamentarians made commitments to support the acceleration of the elimination of FGM/C through regional activities. The parliamentarians identified five priority areas for commitment and collaboration: implementation, community engagement, legislation, policy advocacy and resource allocation. The Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office is coordinating the partnership with the Pan-African Parliament.

Regional analysis of existing legal frameworks on FGM/C

In 2016, a comprehensive regional analysis was conducted of the legal frameworks on FGM in eight countries, supported by the Joint Programme in the West and Central Africa Region. The analysis includes country profiles, a case study analysis of law reinforcement in Burkina Faso, and areas for further in-country research and concrete advocacy recommendations.

The FGM Cases’ Tracking Tool

A tracking tool was developed to address the challenge of effectively monitoring reported FGM cases. The tool promotes accountability during the reporting, investigation and prosecutorial stages of FGM cases. It also allows for authorities to track success stories where the girls were spared the practice due to proactive judicial mechanisms and alternatives to criminal prosecution, including injunctions, parental agreements and other effective methodologies. The information gathered by the tool will help to inform various stakeholders about where interventions are most needed, to ensure that FGM legislation is successfully implemented and the practice is eliminated. This is a joint initiative of UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office, and Equality Now Africa Office.

Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM/C

Led by AIDOS, the Building Bridges Initiative aims to increase the effectiveness of actions against FGM/C, and improve the living conditions of girls and women in Africa and Europe. This is done by building bridges between young people from CSOs, professionals (media, health, psycho‐social, etc.) and communities from targeted African countries and migrant communities in Europe. Bridges are established by sharing good practices, strengthening links and adapting existing best practices in a mutual learning and exchange perspective.

Global strategic interventions

In 2016, the Joint Programme has also collaborated with different partners on the following strategic initiatives:

Development of the Training Manual on Gender and FGM and a policy note on strengthening the policy linkages between different forms of violence

The training manual promotes the understanding of FGM/C as a harmful practice and a form of violence against women and girls. It will supplement the Manual on Social Norms and Change (developed by the Joint Programme in 2014). The policy note explores policy and programming interlinkages, and considers entry points to advance the shared objectives of ending FGM/C and other forms of violence against women and girls. The documents represent a collaboration between the Joint Programme and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Guidelines on the management of health complications from FGM/C

The Joint Programme partnered with the World Health Organization to develop new standards and guidelines, to enable health workers to provide comprehensive and quality prevention, care and protection services related to FGM/C. The Joint Programme funds was used to commissioned research, scoping exercises,expert group meetings and the production of the guidelines. A wide dissemination of the guidelines was done in 2016, including a launch at the Women Deliver Conference.

United Nations General Assembly resolution on FGM: “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation”

The Joint Programme provided technical input for preparation of the resolution document adopted by the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) of the General Assembly in 2016. The resolution (A/Res/71/168) welcomes the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and underscores the importance of eliminating FGM. It also calls upon the international community to strongly support, including through increased financial support, Phase III of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

UN Secretary-General report on FGM: Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of FGM

The Joint Programme provided technical input and actively participated in the preparation of the United Nations Secretary-General report on FGM in 2016. The report recognized the work being supported and undertaken by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

Development of a framework for measuring social norms change on FGM/C

The Joint Programme partnered with experts from Drexel University (Philadelphia) on metrics for assessing programme communication and social change. The aim is to assemble methodologies for tracking change and to develop a measurement framework.
The framework will serve as a reference for other areas of work, most notably child marriage and violence against children. In 2016, a desk review was undertaken, and a participatory workshop was organized that brought together global experts to review the initial draft summary of the Drexel team’s findings and provide inputs for the development of the draft framework.

Value-for-money assessment

The Joint Programme collaborated with the Department for International Development (United Kingdom) in its value-for-money assessment at global and country levels. The exercise aimed to assess value for money of the targeted and enabling elements of the programme, and to develop a framework to improve measurement of results and effectiveness. The assignment will be completed in early 2017, and the findings and recommendations will inform the next phase of the Joint Programme.

For the first time, in 2016, the Joint Programme’s annual report includes profiles of each of the countries (except for Yemen). The profiles present facts about the national context, summarize key achievements, and share operational and financial information. These profiles outline key aspects of operations, and the reports generated by the countries themselves discuss the details of strategic interventions adapted to each local context.

An additional innovation of the 2016 annual report is the companion booklet, 17 Ways to End FGM/C, which uses a narrative style to examine the achievements, challenges and complexities of this work in more detail. It explores the innovative approaches that enable national partners and communities to deconstruct the social norms that allow FGM/C to persist in many communities. It also shows the lengths that teams go to, and the many relationships they forge, to respond to the specific situations they encounter, and the various cultural meanings and attitudes that hold the practice in place.

The year 2017 marks the end of Phase II. Throughout the year, the Joint Programme will redouble its efforts to finalize implementation of Phase II. This will include in-depth reflection on the approach and effectiveness of the Joint Programme, and development of a programme document for Phase III (2018-2021), as requested by the United Nations General Assembly.

Other key focus areas for 2017 include finalizing the social norms change framework, completing the value-for-money assessment and using it to inform the way forward, and strengthening engagement with regional political bodies to enhance political mobilization and commitment towards the elimination of FGM/C.


Much has been learned and accomplished in the first two phases of the Joint Programme. We look forward to applying this learning and enlisting our network of strengthened partnerships for an accelerated push in Phase III. The aim is to ensure that all girls are spared from the cut by 2030 at the latest, as called for by the Sustainable Development Goals.

None of our 2016 accomplishments could have been achieved without the financial contributions and technical guidance of our Steering Committee, and the generous support of the governments of Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. We are very grateful to them and to the European Union, which joined the group of donors in 2016.