To coincide with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on 6 February, the anti-FGM organisation, 28 Too Many, in partnership with the Rofayda Hospital Group and Tadwein in Egypt, announced on Wednesday the launch of its Zero Tolerance Ribbon against FGM.
The ribbon will be given to the parents of all newborn baby girls’ at Rofayda hospitals across Egypt, along with their birth certificates, and a pledge urging parents to sign that they will not practice FGM on their daughters.
More than 200 million girls and women have been affected by FGM globally, and with an FGM prevalence of 87.2% in a population of nearly 95 million, Egypt has the greatest number of women and girls who have experienced FGM of any country in the world. Since at least 2008, there has been a significant shift in Egypt away from traditional practitioners and toward health professionals performing FGM.
For her part, Ann-Marie Wilson, founder and executive director of 28 Too Many stated that even though laws prohibiting FGM in Egypt have existed since 2008, the prevalence here is still extremely high, and in most cases in Egypt, FGM is carried out by medical professionals.
“By launching this campaign with the Rofayda Hospital Group, we are not only putting across the message of Zero Tolerance to FGM, but also to the medicalisation of FGM. Several young girls have died whilst undergoing medicalised FGM in Egypt, and we believe that the launch of this ribbon today will be a huge step in ending this practice,” she added.
Unlike traditional awareness ribbons, which follow a similar design with different colours for various issues or causes, the Zero Tolerance Ribbon will be flipped upside down. The meaning behind this symbol is two-fold. Firstly, this ribbon stands against an issue, the opposite of what traditional ribbons stand for. Secondly, and more importantly, the design of the ribbon is based on how the word ‘NO’ is written in Arabic, allowing it to become a new universal symbol and powerful statement in Arabic. The ribbon is coloured in a unique shade of blue – the colour blue is a symbol of justice, protection, virtue, and truth in Egypt and is considered a sign of safety and protection in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Amira Edris from Rofadya Health Park, one of the hospitals from the Rofayda Hospital Group, commented: “The role of our doctors will be to educate new parents on the danger of FGM, even if carried out by a medical professional. We want to encourage parents to join our pledge and protect the rights and dignity of a future generation of women and girls.”
On 6 February, the Zero Tolerance Ribbon distributed to all Rofayda Hospital Group hospitals through 28 Too Many’s non-governmental organisation’s (NGO) partner Tadwein, and used by organisations in Egypt and across the world as a symbol of Zero Tolerance to FGM, with further plans to roll this out in all hospitals in Egypt in the coming months.
Accordingly, the Population Council conducted a research to support the abolishment of female circumcision in Egypt, through a study to eliminate the phenomenon of FGM in Egypt, called “No to circumcision: designing and implementing more effective social marketing campaigns to support the abolishment of FGM in Egypt”. The two studies were conducted in coordination with the ministry of health and the National Population Council.
The results of the studies revealed that the rates of female circumcision in Egypt are declining, where the percentage of circumcisions reached 92% among married women between the ages of 15-49. The percentage dropped to 85% among young women in the 20-25 age group, and 72% among girls in the 13-17 age group, as reported by the youth and population survey in Egypt.
However, there is a significant increase in the percentage of girls being circumcised by healthcare providers, reaching 65% among girls aged 13-17 years-old, compared to 31% among married women between the ages of 15-49 years-old.
Commenting on the issue of medicalising FGM, Country Director of the Population Council in Egypt, Nahla Abdel Tawab, previously told Daily News Egypt that it is important to spread sufficient awareness in order to eliminate the phenomenon of female circumcision, especially the practice of female circumcision by health care providers, which is the medicalisation of FM.
She explained that although most doctors are aware that circumcision is illegal, some of them conduct the surgery under other names, or suggest other doctors.
Abdel Tawab added that doctors and nurses’ information on sexual health is very limited, and that they are not sufficiently aware of the psychological and health damages caused by female circumcision.
Although previous campaigns against FGM succeeded in reaching a large percentage of the population, especially females, and were equally successful in raising awareness of the harms of circumcision and its negative health and psychological effects, as well as created social dialogue among target groups, however, Abdel Tawab asserted that personal contact has proven to be more effective in changing behaviour to overcome the fear of societal consequences which can result from the abolishment of female circumcision, as well as conflicting views among influential community individuals, such as doctors and religious people.
Hence, the focus of the next phase is empowering families to overcome concerns regarding the abolishment of FGM and creating a supportive environment to achieve it.
Abdel Tawab stressed the need to consolidate efforts to work toward eradicating FGM, urging all governmental and NGOs to incorporate in their plans and programme efforts to decrease the medicalisation of FGM, as well as to reduce the demand for circumcision by raising the awareness of families of the long – and short-term negative impacts of FGM.
Most of the activities against FGM did not sufficiently target men and young people, despite their indirect role which affect the decision to circumcise females, she declared.