Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau is commemorating it by announcing $3 million in funding to put an end to FGM.

This initiative, which will be announced sometime today, is a four-year project aimed at eliminating FGM in West Africa.

Canada announced a commitment of $650 million to sexual and reproductive health and rights in July 2017, which includes responding to sexual and gender-based violence, like FGM, but today’s announcement marks the first time the federal government has allotted funds to specifically target the cultural practice abroad, according to The Canadian Press.

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In Canada, the government provided $350,000 to Table de concertation pour les organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes , an organization working to raise awareness about FGM and support its survivors.

But aside from that, there has been little concrete funding provided for FGM-specific initiatives.

The subject of FGM has been thrown into the spotlight a number of times over the last year, as leaked documents revealed concerns that practitioners were entering the country, and emails popped up indicating that children were being cut in Canada or else taken abroad to undergo the procedure.

Read More: The Truth About the Secretive Practice of “FGM” In Canada

Global Citizen launched a large-scale reporting piece on the state of FGM in Canada and experienced firsthand the resistance from the government to discuss Canada’s direct implication in confronting this practice.

But today’s announcement reveals some commitment to working towards eliminating this harmful ritual around the world.

This past summer, a draft of the Canadian citizenship guide was leaked that had removed the criminal warning against FGM, which sparked debate between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Read More: FGM Among Us — Real Stories from Germany, the UK, and the US

After much debate, the warning was reinstated.

“FGM is considered as gender-based violence and a criminal act in Canada and I think it's important to inform the new citizens that this cultural practice is absolutely not acceptable in Canada,” Bibeau said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press on Monday from Cotonou, Benin.

Bibeau was in Cotonou, Benin, to meet with former colleagues prior to today’s funding announcement. The funded project will be run by CUSO International, a non-profit development organization, in two northern regions of Benin until 2021.

Read More: 8 Countries Where FGM Has Affected Over 80% of Women

In northern Benin, 60% of girls are affected by the practice, according to Bibeau.

Bibeau is hoping this project will prevent 57,000 girls from being subjected to FGM between infancy to age 9.

Canada is also working with other countries, UN associations and non-government groups to support the elimination of the practice, according to CBC.

As far as FGM in Canada goes, Bibeau concedes that more data and research is needed to really address the problem within the country.

“We have to have these conversations with these communities to work on their beliefs and cultural norms and for them to understand it's a matter of rights, and health for women and girls,” Bibeau told The Canadian Press.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including issues related to gender equality. You can help put an end to FGM by taking action here.


Demand Equity

Canada To Fund $3 Million Project To Help Eliminate FGM in West Africa

By Jackie Marchildon