The 3rd of June 2020, an article was published on ‘News Decoder’, a global educational news service for young people, for which I was interviewed by journalist Lizan Nijkrake. The article was one of their so-called ‘decoders’, which they publish to explain complex global issues together with asking questions to stimulate discussion. The global issue in the article at hand was Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in times of the COVID-19 pandemic and more specifically how the lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the African Continent are a major set-back in the progress of ending FGM/C.
The article was written following the webinars that I am organizing about the impact of Covid-19 on our efforts to end FGM/C. Currently, we see - unfortunately - an increase in FGM/C cases in various countries in Africa. Key factors related to this problem are the fact that NGOs and campaigners are disrupted from their important work, as community-based activities cannot be organized. In addition, law enforcement is limited, as the attention of governmental authorities is diverted to COVID-19. As many markets and businesses are closed, parents are facing economic difficulties and marrying off their daughters, which is a source of income. However, FGM/C is often a prerequisite for marriage. At the same time, we see that solutions are being offered as well in times of crisis. For example, anonymous telephone hotlines, to which girls at risk or family members who are opposed to FGM/C can report cases of FGM/C and receive help, are developing themselves and alternative community outreach strategies are currently developed, for example via the radio, social media and TV to effectively prevent FGM/C.
However, it is still quite likely that due COVID-19 many girls will be cut. UNFPA has estimated that in the next ten years, this number may amount to as much as two million girls. This is a very worrying trend. You can read the full article here.