For over 135 million girls and women in the world (and maybe 70 million more!) FGM is a cultural practice that leaves them scarred both emotionally and physically. But there are many people, especially in the medical profession, working to educate people to prevent FGM and provide support for girls and women who have already suffered the painful process of FGM.

There are surgeons performing reconstructive surgery for women who’ve endured FGM. The surgery, if successful, allows women to feel pleasure again during sex and experience arousal. There is still much emotional and psychological trauma from FGM that therapy can work to overcome, but for many women the surgery is life-changing and gives them a chance at a “normal life.” While FGM has been a cultural practice for centuries, advanced methods for reconstructive surgery for FGM have only been around since 2004.

Image: Flickr: UK Department for International Development

Repairing lives after FGM is important, but preventing women from ever experiencing it is the only way to eradicate the brutal practice. There is only a possibility of the trauma of FGM being healed after it occurs, but there is a guarantee of no trauma when FGM stops for good. This is often true when you consider that some girls and women are embarrassed to go to a surgeon, especially when it’s a male.

This is why the Gadaref Midwifery School in Sudan training local midwives how to end FGM is fantastic!

The midwives are known as “Qabilat,” which meaning receivers, because they are the receivers of new life into the world.

These girls and women between the ages of 19 and 40 are on a mission to eradicate FGM through educating and empowering a future generation of midwives.

As midwives, women learn how to deliver babies and are seen as leaders in the community. They are respected by men, women and elders in Sudan and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where FGM is most prevalent.

At the Gadaref Midwifery School in South Sudan women take an oath that they will not only never practice FGM, but will also do everything in their power to stop FGM when they see or hear of the practice in a community.

Midwives from the school teach children, teachers, and families about the negative health impacts of FGM. They also encourage children to tell teachers if someone in their family intends to perform FGM, or have endured FGM so they can provide medical care.

And the amazing thing is—this grassroots effort is actually working!

Since the school opened in 1973, the number of places where FGM is practiced in Gadaref has declined. Only one county in the Gadaref state in Sudan allows FGM today. The rate of FGM among women in Sudan dropped from 43 percent in 2006 to 32 percent in 2014. This progress is because of education and the empowerment of women.

The best part about this initiative is that it builds momentum. The more women who come under the influence of the school, the more advocates there are and the less likely FGM is to occur. This is a cultural transformation, but it’s clear that these women can change a practice that has no medical benefits, deprives women of experiencing pleasure during sex, and puts girls and women’s lives at risk.

So, on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation let’s celebrate all those working to end FGM and spread the word that FGM affects girls and women in every country.

If you want to know more about FGM you can read this piece on everything you need to know about FGM.


Demand Equity

School in Sudan trains midwives to end FGM

By Meghan Werft