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Protecting future generations from FGM

Zainab and her mum in Sierra Leone


Meet the girls working to protect future generations from female genital mutilation

In communities around the world, girls remain at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that involves partially removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits and leaves girls and young women at risk of emotional and physical trauma – including infection, infertility and even death.

FGM is a violation of a girl’s human rights that enforces gender inequality. In many cultures where the practice happens, it’s believed to be required for a girl to get married, and those who don’t undergo the procedure may be thought of as promiscuous. The belief that FGM equates to purity, cleanliness and ‘good morals’ is a reason why the practice continues.

But in countries such as Sierra Leone, Mali and Ethiopia, we’re working with girls who want to make sure future generations don’t have to undergo FGM. We’re supporting them as they educate their communities on the harmful effects of the practice and working with governments and community leaders to increase legal protection for girls and women against FGM.

Infancy to 15 is when most girls are made to undergo FGM

More than three million girls are estimated to be at risk of FGM each year

More than 200 million girls and women globally have been through FGM

Isatu's story

There is no benefit. It only causes us pain.

Isatu was 16 when she went through FGM in Sierra Leone. She shares her experiences and the long-term impact the practice has had on her life.

What is female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves partially removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits.

How does FGM impact girls and women?

FGM carries the risk of infection and even death. Long-term, girls may face an increased chance of complications during childbirth and stillbirth, increased susceptibility to infection and psychological trauma.

Why does FGM still happen?

In many communities where FGM happens it’s believed to be required for a girl to get married. The practice has often become ingrained over generations, making it very difficult for girls, boys, mothers and fathers to challenge it.

Our work to end FGM

We’re supporting young people and their communities to end FGM by:

  • Working with girls and women to make sure they’re aware of the harmful effects of FGM. This not only empowers them to make choices, it also educates the women who carry out the procedure. Because men and boys tend to have greater power and influence in cultures that practice FGM, we also work with them to change their attitudes.
  • Increasing legal protection. Part of our work involves engaging with governments and community leaders to put legal restrictions in place around FGM and making sure they’re enforced.
  • Supporting survivors. Those who have been through FGM often need help and support, so we work with local health workers and the wider community to provide psychological and medical support to survivors.


Stand with brave girls everywhere as they take on the fight for equal rights

Fatoumata, right, with her daughter Sanaba and grand-daughter Aissatou.

Generations of change in Mali

"Many girls of 14 or 15 are determined that when the time comes, their daughters will not be cut." – Sanaba

In one village in Mali, ideas surrounding FGM are changing  –  and it’s mothers and grandmothers, like Sanaba and Fatoumata, who are ending the silence surrounding the practice.

Giving girls back their futures in Sierra Leone

Zainab in Sierra Leone

‘It’s very important to raise awareness’

Zainab was 13 when she joined the anti-FGM club in her school, which is supported by Plan International. Four years later, she leads the club and uses the radio show she hosts to make sure girls are aware of their rights and know how to get help if they need it.

“When a girl is forced to undergo FGM, she loses her future,” Zainab explains. “As well as the danger of death and bleeding, FGM also causes girls to drop out of school – which in turn leads to early marriage and to teenage pregnancy.”

Sewanatu in Sierra Leone

'I thought it was a tradition that was done to protect me'

"I want to help girls believe in themselves and to see that there are a lot of opportunities out there for them.” – Sewanatu

Sewanatu and Isha* were both forced to go through FGM when they were growing up. Today, they’re determined other girls won’t have the same experience they did – and are raising their voices for girls’ rights and an end to FGM.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

FGM in the UK

While the practice is concentrated in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, FGM isn't just a problem overseas: the issue is a global one. In the UK the practice is illegal but girls remain at risk – in England, one case of FGM is newly recorded every 92 minutes.

A girl holds a sign calling for an end to FGM

Are You at Risk of FGM?

If you think you or someone you know is in immediate danger of having to go through FGM, or of being taken abroad to undergo the practice, you can call the police by dialling 999.

If you’re concerned that a child's welfare is at risk because of FGM, you can call the NSPCC’s free helpline on 0808 800 5000. The helpline offers advice, information and support. Though callers can choose to remain anonymous, any information that could protect a child at serious risk may be passed to the police or social services.

Help change the future for girls