– 6 February 2019
Empowering women to fight for their rights
Today is International day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation – a day to champion the rights of the three million girls worldwide at risk from FGM each year. Many will have no choice in whether they undergo the procedure – as they are too young to object, feel obliged by tradition, or are unable to marry and secure their futures without it.
Empowering women so they can stand up for their rights, and the rights of their daughters, is key to ending this practice for good.
Through our family strengthening programmes worldwide, we are helping women become financially independent with training, business advice and access to start-up loans. We are supporting struggling families, so they can send their daughters, and sons, to school. And we are ensuring women are informed of their rights and have the resources and support they need to fight for them.
In Guinea Bissau, our grassroots campaign has raised women’s rights to the top of the national agenda and led to thousands of women taking to the streets in peaceful protest. We championed the inclusion of women’s rights into the school curriculum – and won. And we held community dialogues that informed women of their rights and the dangers of FGM – reducing the number of mothers who planned for their daughters to be cut from 18% to none.
Our ‘Women’s Empowerment for Change’ project in The Gambia has encouraged local FGM circumcisers to find new sources of employment and transformed them into influential advocates for ending this harmful practice. And in Meru, in Eastern Kenya, where FGM continues in secret despite being against the law, our work has resulted in girls refusing the procedure and advocating for safer, alternative rites of passage.
When women have access to education and job prospects that offer them choices in life, they can stand up for their rights and reduce the incidence of FGM, gender-based violence and discrimination. By working together, they can challenge social norms and practices and change their societies forever.
By Lucy Prioli, Communications Manager, SOS Children’s Villages UK