First African summit to address to FGM and Child Marriage takes place in Senegal

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UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Regional Goodwill Ambassador Jaha Dukureh  participated in an interactive dialogue recently at the first African Summit on FGM and Child Marriage in Dakar, Senegal.

UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, represented the United Nations at the first African Summit on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage taking place in Dakar, Senegal from June 16-18.  The summit was aimed at reestablishing the commitment of governments, religious leaders, traditional leaders, and other stakeholders into an action on the ground that eliminates these harmful practices.

The Summit opened on the Day of the African Child, with participants speaking on the vital steps needed to end child marriage and FGM, and to fulfil the full potential of African youth. The Summit was organized by the Governments of Senegal and Gambia, in partnership with the Big Sisters movement and the NGO Safe Hands for Girls led by UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador Jaha Dukureh, as well as UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF and The World Bank.

Speaking at the plenary opening session attended by more than 300 participants, UN Women Executive Director said: “There is nothing that can justify these practices. No religious or cultural belief or medical reason. Not even the desire for social acceptance within our communities or the belief that we are doing this for the good of women and girls, by improving their chances of a suitable marriage or upholding their family honour. FGM and child marriage are harmful in every sense of the word. The gains to come from ending these harmful practices are more than individual, more than family, more than community.”

At an interactive dialogue between Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka and Ms. Jaha Dukureh, the Executive Director praised the formidable contingent of young women leaders working for gender equality, and called on governments to take young leaders seriously, to build their capacity, and provide funding for those on the front line of this work, as “our future is African girls”.

Regional Goodwill Ambassador Jaha Dukureh speaks during the first African Summit on FGM and Child Marriage in Dakar, Senegal. Photo: UN Women/Dieynaba Niabaly

“This Summit is about Africa. It’s an African-led initiative. We need to take control of the movement. It’s going to take us a lot to end these practices that continue to harm us,” said Jaha Dukureh.

The Deputy Grand Imam of Al Azhar added that these are practices are not prescribed by Islam, which bans all dangerous practices for people’s health, such as FGM.

According to statistics at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM, and 650 million women and girls in the world today were married before age 18. The current rate of decline in child marriage, 1.9 per cent over the past ten years, is insufficient to meet the target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Africa, these practices are deeply rooted in traditional cultures and entrenched in gender inequality and poverty.

The Executive Director also met with key stakeholders and partners, including ministers, religious and traditional leaders, youth activists, officials of UN entities, The World Bank Group, and media, to reaffirm UN Women’s commitment to accelerate progress in the eradication of FGM and child marriage.

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