This Nigerian NGO Is Using Education to Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation

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Despite a law banning the practice in 2015, female genital mutilation (FGM) is still widespread in Nigeria, with young girls who have reached puberty being cut behind closed doors, especially in rural areas.

It is estimated that, worldwide, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, which involves the ritual cutting or removal of external female genitalia. The majority are in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia. In Nigeria, nearly 20 million women living today are thought to have undergone the procedure, according to United Kingdom-based charity 28 Too Many, which works in 28 African countries where FGM is practiced.

In Nigeria, FGM is illegal under a bill that criminalizes “harmful traditional practices” and carries a maximum punishment of four years in prison and a $635 fine for performing the procedure.

But some activists say the law isn’t properly enforced. A more effective way to stop the practice, they say, is to focus on raising awareness of the dangers of FGM and challenging the ingrained ideas of the procedure as a cultural necessity.

The Value Female Network is one of the groups that have taken on that mission in Nigeria. Since it was set up in 2015, the non-governmental organization (NGO) has been working to end the practice in Osun state, which has an FGM prevalence rate of 76.3 percent, believed to be the highest in Nigeria. In partnership with the Sheri Care Foundation, an NGO owned by the wife of the governor of the state, VFN educates communities and provides retraining to cutters in occupations such as hair dressing, farming, make-up, and bead making.

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