FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

By Fatima Awil

February 10, 2016

Fatima Awil, a founding member of Youth For Change UK, and youth advocate for African women’s diaspora organization FORWARD, explains why involving young men and boys are essential in the fight against female genital mutilation.


Although it’s well recognised that boys and young men are crucial in ending the battle against FGM once and for all, the talk rarely translates into action.


I always feel disheartened when I attend a conference or an amazing event simply because there is always an abundance of girls and young women. Only once in a while do you spot a male head in the crowd.


Whenever I partake in FGM discussions, there is always that one person who passionately exclaims “we need more involvement from boys, and young men!”, but their words alone are unfortunately never enough to attract male participation—especially amongst boys and young men.


This of course begs the question: where are we going wrong? What is preventing men, especially those from affected communities, from getting involved to prevent an issue that affects them, whether they know it or not? From my perspective, there are three reasons why men and boys should be involved in eradicating female genital mutilation:


FGM is more than just a practice—it violates fundamental rights and is a form of child abuse


Choosing to tackle FGM, should have nothing to do with whether or not your sister or mother has been, or could have been affected. Since FGM is often a deeply taboo subject, it’s often unlikely for you to ever find out whether you know someone who has been cut.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs, for non-medical reasons. It takes away a part of a girl, which she can never get back, often resulting in physical and psychological damage. She has to carry that with her for the rest of her life. More than anything, it removes the freedom of choice over what happens to her body.


You are often an excuse for why this practice should not end


One of the root causes for and the continuity of this practice concerns men. Although FGM is carried out on women, it’s really performed for men; in effect it is another form of oppression. In essence, FGM controls the sexuality of the woman, so she is pure, marriageable and will be devoted to her partner.


What’s even crazier is that studies have shown when girls and women are asked why FGM is necessary—they point towards men. But at the same time, if boys and young men are asked, they will point back at the girls and women!


This is partially to do with the secrecy surrounding the topic of FGM. It’s been going on for so long people have lost their reasoning and instead naturally fall back on the social normality of the issue. If girls and boys actually discussed FGM freely and openly, we could challenge this. If more young men spoke out, they could set the record straight and help crumble another excuse used to cling to the practice.


Your voice matters – what are you going to do with it?


There are plenty of things you can do to get involved in the movement to end FGM. You can join amazing organisations which tackle the issue to kick start your campaigning experience. Keep a look out for future events, follow FGM organisations on social media, support and share FGM campaigns, educate yourself about the issues, and talk to friends and family to break the silence. You can also contribute your views to our Youth For Change website; your options really are endless.


The truth of the matter is boys and men are just as important to ending this issue as girls and women. We need your voices, so please don’t waste any time in joining the fight to see a world with zero FGM!

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Young Men and Women Rising to Break The Cycle of FGM

For International Zero Tolerance Day of FGM on February 6, youth all over the world led and participated in the #WhyZeroFGM campaign to increase awareness about the egregious and inhumane nature of female genital mutilation (FGM) and use their voices as agents of change to spark a much-needed dialogue on issues that affect them, their peers, and society-at large.


Leading the conversation were Youth For Change activists, who work tirelessly to end atrocities such as FGM in their respective communities. Below, young men and women from all over the world took a united stand against FGM and shared their thoughts on video.

#WhyZeroFGM Videos

“We want girls to unlock their full potential and they can’t do that with FGM.”

Click here to view Arifa’s YouTube video.

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“Millions of people are living with FGM. We must get rid of the practice as soon as possible.”

Click here to view Ayesha’s YouTube.

fgm ayesha 1 - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“It is important that organizations engage young people to end FGM so it can end in our generation.”

Click here to view Daniel’s YouTube video.

fgm daniel - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“FGM prevents girls to have choices over their body.”

Click here to view Fatima’s YouTube video.

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“We want girls to unlock their full potential and they can’t do that with FGM.”

Click here to view Arifa’s YouTube video.

fgm francis - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“Because girls deserve to be safe in their environments.”

Click here to view Harry’s YouTube video.

fgm harry - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“In order to change society, you need to change the mindsets of the young people.”

Click here to view Ifrah’s YouTube video.

fgm ifrah - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“Girls’ voices must be heard! Protection and support should be available to them.”

Click here to view Kiram’s YouTube video.

fgm kiram - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“Please spare one moment of your life to raise awareness for girls.”

Click here to view Maisha’s YouTube video.

fgm maisha - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“FGM is a human rights violation. If we don’t end it now, more will suffer.”

Click here to view Muna’s YouTube video.

fgm muna - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“We must do away with cultural and traditional practices such as female genital mutilation.

We need young people to be involved to end FGM because young people today are the parents of tomorrow.”

Click here to view Neema’s YouTube video.

fgm neema - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“Youth can be at the center to end FGM through peer to peer advocacy.

Youth can join forces with parents and leaders to ensure zero FGM in their society.”

Click here to view Petrider’s YouTube video.

fgm petrider - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“FGM leads to mental and physical devastation to girls and women.”

Click here to see Saima’s YouTube video.

fgm saima - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“FGM causes serious health complications. Young people need to fight to end this.”

Click here to view Serkalem’s YouTube video.

fgm serkalem - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“This practice must be stopped because FGM needs to be abandoned from this world.

FGM provides a training ground for male domination all over the world.”

Click here to view Shawon’s YouTube video.

fgm shawon - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“It creates an imbalance in equilibrium of social, cultural and economic perpectives.”

Click here to view Sifat’s YouTube video.

fgm safit - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue

“It can lead to death and psychological problems.”

Click here to view Upendo’s YouTube video.

fgm upendo - FGM: Not Just a Girls’ Issue