Female Genital Mutilation: Every Victim Is One Too Many

Austrian Development Cooperation is working to build awareness and provide better health care in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso to curb the practice of FGM.

"Zero tolerance for FGM" is the principle the international community commits itself to every year on 6 February, on International Day against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as it recalls the shocking number of those affected. The Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, is spending 1.2 million euros on four projects conducted by Austrian civil society organizations to help efforts against FGM in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. The projects introduce measures against the cruel practice and strengthen access to high-quality health care for women. Until 2021, approximately 111.000 women will directly benefit from the initiatives.

No Time to lose

"Information, time and the combined efforts of all members of society are what is needed to end female genital mutilation once and for all. This is the only way to achieve actual equality of girls and women, and this is what we invest all of our energy into", says Martin Ledolter, Managing Director of ADA, on the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. The past couple of years have shown a slight decline in the practice of FGM. Still – "every girl that falls victim to female genital mutilation is one girl too many". And, Ledolter adds: “We don’t have any time to lose in the fight against FGM!”

information, prevention, care and treatment

With the funding from Austria, HORIZONT300, Caritas Austria, the Austrian Red Cross and the private foundation Hilfe mit Plan are working together with local partners in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso to inform and educate the public about FGM-related health risks and dangers. Influential religious and traditional leaders as well as teachers and local health care workers play a key role in the success of the projects. The initiatives also aim to help end the stigma of taboo subjects like sexual and reproductive health of women. Local medical capacities for prevention, care and treatment of FGM and its associated health problems will be increased.

A global Problem

Pain during urination, agonizing menstrual pain, danger to life at childbirth, high risk of infection and lifelong trauma: Girls and women whose external genitalia are partly or entirely removed under horrific hygienic conditions suffer from the physical and psychological consequences of this severe form of assault. Female genital mutilation is practiced in 30 countries around the world, though mainly in the west, east and northeast of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. But FGM also affects migrants from abroad.

Social and cultural norms keep the practice of FGM alive. Wherever female genital mutilation endangers the life and health of girls and young women, it is always deeply rooted in the inequality of men and women. It is the result of extreme discrimination. Austrian Development Cooperation has always fought – and will continue to fight – for gender equality and for the rights of girls and women.