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Waris Dirie

FGM: moving letter helps make zero tolerance a reality

Health | By Girl Effect Team

It's a decade since the first Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). On the 10th anniversary last month, people from around the world again joined forces to call for an end to this 2,000-year-old practice. So, what difference did it make? 

In Africa an estimated three million girls are still experiencing genital mutilation or cutting each year, but there are reasons for optimism. On this year's Day of Zero Tolerance, reported how, as more and more girls and women - such as Somali model and campaigner Waris Dirie (pictured) - speak out about their experiences of FGM, attitudes are starting to change.

Since then, those powerful stories have spread even further. 

Last week a moving letter written by an 11-year-old girl to the charity Equality Now was published by a number of media outlets in the UK including the Daily Mail. "I don't want my private cut by anyone," she wrote, in fear of suffering the same fate as her sister, who had been cut by her aunt without her parents' knowledge. UK newspaper the Independent also ran a series of articles about FGM to tie in with International Women's Day.

And it's not just in the UK. A documentary film tackling the subject called The Cut played to packed cinemas at a film festival in Burkina Faso recently. Beryl Magoko, the director, told the Guardian newspaper: "I came under a lot of peer pressure from my sister and my school friends, so I too wanted to do it. It was torture. You just bleed and suffer, and the medicine they give you is herbs with sugar water. I want to show my film in the villages on mobile cinemas alongside seminars, so young girls don't have to suffer."

Crucially, as understanding of FGM spreads, so does action to tackle it. In a milestone moment at the UN's Commission for the Status of Women last week, the UK international development minister, Lynne Featherstone, announced the biggest-ever international investment programme aimed at ending FGM. "It is time to break the taboo on genital mutilation," she said in New York. "For too long the international community has been cowardly on this subject."

With a budget of £35m, the new programme is expected to reduce FGM by 30 per cent across 10 priority countries over the next five years.

It's a great start, but until the number of girls being subjected to FGM reaches zero, then we must all do what we can to keep FGM in the headlines all year round. 

Do you know of a great campaign to end FGM? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter

Show your support. Join Amnesty's Art For Action on FGM Tour

Watch The Cut trailer 

Read the Independent's series on FGM 

Read the letter about FGM to Equality Now 

Find out more about DFID's investment in FGM programmes

Learn more about health and safety for girls 

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