The current estimates of women and girls at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C) highlights the extent of challenges in preventing and addressing the practice. These challenges include the growing medicalization of the practice, barriers and resistance in law enforcement, and challenges in social norms and behaviours that justify FGM/C. In July 2018, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted Resolution 38/6 on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. In this Resolution, the HRC requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in collaboration with specialized UN agencies, to organize a two-day meeting in Addis Ababa. The objective was to discuss progress, gaps, and challenges in the application of the human rights framework to prevent and eliminate FGM/C.
UN agencies reached out to us requesting to conduct research and write a background paper on the four main thematic areas to be discussed during the event:
We knew this would be an invaluable opportunity to further examine the obstacles getting in the way of more accelerated progress towards the elimination of the practice. More importantly, it was an opportunity to put expert minds together and generate novel ideas and initiatives. We gladly accepted the task at hand and created a 40-page document that would serve as the backbone for the event.
Meeting in Addis Ababa
Twenty-five experts and practitioners from 15 countries —scholars and researchers, medical and judicial actors, civil society, and United Nations representatives— were summoned to Addis Ababa. All of the attendants, including Dr. Annemarie Middelburg, prepared presentations, shared their knowledge and participated in discussions around the four major topics.
A graphic designer who was present at the event made a beautiful visual summary of the conclusions from the different sessions.
It was an honor to attend this event as an expert, but even more so, to have been granted the responsibility of drafting such an important document. We were excited to learn that the expert meeting impacted policymaking at the highest level. In April 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted the outcome report of the meeting to the HRC. In July 2020, the HRC adopted a new resolution on FGM/C, and several of the recommendations drafted at Addis Ababa had been included.