UNICEF chief calls for end to female genital cutting, ‘honour crimes,’ child marriage
Female genital cutting, so-called honour crimes and child marriage are symbols of discrimination against girls and women and must be ended, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has said.
In an opinion piece this week in the Modesto Bee, a daily newspaper published in her home state of California, Ms. Veneman highlighted the cases of two young girls in Egypt who died as a result of genital cutting this summer.
“About 3 million girls are cut each year, and an estimated 130 million women have undergone the procedure,” she wrote, assailing the practice as “one of many harmful practices that have their roots in discrimination” against girls and women.
Other destructive and discriminatory practices cited by Ms. Veneman included ‘honour crimes’ and child marriage. Any effective strategy to end such abuses has to include community-based approaches like those adopted by Tostan, a UNICEF-supported non-governmental organization in Senegal, she argued.
“Tostan works with communities in local languages to help provide women with a voice in decision-making,” she wrote. “This approach has been put into practice in hundreds of Senegalese villages – with great success.”
Ms. Veneman, who visited the Tostan programme last year, said nearly a third of the 5,000 communities in Senegal had abandoned female genital cutting and many had moved away from child marriage.
Through collective action encompassing efforts like these, female genital cutting and “other harmful practices that subjugate young girls must be consigned to history,” she concluded.