Ten United Nations agencies have pledged to support efforts to ensure a major reduction in the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in many countries by 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals are set to be achieved.
A statement by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Accra on Tuesday said the goal could be achieved by building on the progress of existing programmes and working hand in hand with communities.
The agencies are: the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, the UN Development Programme, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations and the UN Population Fund.
The others are the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF, and the UN Development Fund for Women and the World Health Organization.
The agencies said; “We have seen great success in people turning away from this harmful practice. To take these efforts to scale, we also need to see strong leadership on female genital mutilation at all levels”.
The agencies, also expressed concern about the medicalization of female genital mutilation, where the mutilation was performed in health facilities, saying the argument that a mild form performed by medically trained personnel was safer, should never be considered as an option.
The statement also expressed regret that despite various interventions by local communities, government and international organizations to reduce the prevalence, FGM remained a threat to the rights and health of women.
According to the statement, between 100 and 140 million women and girls in the world were estimated to have undergone FGM and three million girls were estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedure every year.
It said recent studies indicated that women who had undergone FGM had higher risks for caesarean sections, longer hospital stays, and post-partum haemorrhage, adding that their newborn babies had higher death rates during and immediately after birth as well.
The statement explained the practice was a manifestation of unequal relations between women and men with roots in deeply entrenched social, economic and political convention, hence the need for a collective, explicit and widespread community involvement to eliminate it.