Despite Rise in FGM over last 2 years of COVID, CARE Young Girls Champion in Somalia Offer Hope

As the world commemorates International Day of Zero tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on 6th February 2022, Somali young girl champions have been at the forefront within their communities in calling for its abolishment. 

According to the latest Somali Health and Demographic Survey, 99 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM.  

CARE has been working within the community to stop the spread of this harmful practice. One of the ways we have been doing this is through a Girl Empowerment Project in Somaliland, Puntland, and Galmudug. Through this program, girls undergo leadership training skills that enable them to become advocates against FGM. They learn Peer to peer support, decision making, and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. They then spread this information to not only their friends and family but also community members. "When we are sharing awareness with mother, fathers and older people, some of them listen to us and some say you are young girls, why do you want to tell us something but we continue with our work and awareness because we have the right to talk about this issue," Jaweira Shuab, one of the girl champions says. So far, 1,990 girls have gone through the training. 

Efforts have been made to outlaw this practice but much more still needs to be done, a specific FGM Bill has been drafted and presented to the cabinet, but has yet to be endorsed, a process that will ultimately require the support of prominent religious leaders and institutions. 

In 2021, reports of a 13-year-old girl who died after undergoing female genital mutilation shocked the nation and the world at large and clearly showed why the practice should be stopped. Many more cases of such deaths go unreported within the communities. 

Abdullahi Iman, Somalia Country Director says, "The COVID-19 pandemic has had a myriad of negative knock-on effects on communities in Somalia. One of the most insidious and worrying has been the backtracking on key rights of women and young girls who have not been able to go to school, access key sexual and reproductive rights, forced into early marriage and are facing increased pressure to submit to harmful FGM practices. 

"Our teams have reported horrific cases of girls losing their lives after undergoing this inhumane practice. FGM has contributed to Somalia having one of the highest maternity mortality rates in the world. Delaying the age of the first pregnancy, stopping harmful practices such as FGM, and ensuring timely access to obstetric care have been identified as remedies that can be done to reduce the high maternal mortality rates in the country. 

"We are working with girls and communities to raise awareness against this harmful practice, CARE has established Girl Empowerment Forums and trained girl champions who are advocating for the eradication of female genital mutilation. 

"We call upon the authorities to join hands in abolishing this horrific practice and focus on investing in the girl child, they need education and access to sexual reproductive information so that they can make decisions for themselves."

CARE is engaging with different levels of society to raise awareness on the harmful effects of FGM, this involves working with girl champions to engage their communities and fellow students in schools. CARE has formed Girl Empowerment which provides a space for girls to engage on sexual reproductive health issues. 

Watch a video on CARE's Girl Empowerment project

A girl wearing a black full body covering next to text that reads "CARE Somalia started the Girl Champion project." Play video

CARE's Girl Empowerment Project is one of our key initiatives to stop the spread of FGM in Somalia. Through this program, girls undergo leadership training skills that enable them to become advocates against this harmful practice.

For media inquiries, please contact Walter Mawere, Advocacy and Communication Coordinator, Walter.Mawere@care.org