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Day 5 of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

AWC Berlin is participating in 2020’s “16 Days” campaign by posting stories on gender-based violence to inform and inspire action. Follow the series on our blog and social media and let us know what actions you’re taking.

The following story has been reposted from FAWCO’s blog Health Matters.

An FGM Call to Action

by Tharien Van Eck, AWC Antwerp Member and FAWCO Target Program Chair

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
—Helen Keller

FGM, female genital mutilation, is regarded as one of the most horrendous human rights abuses imaginable.

It is a harmful practice including the partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has no medical benefit and can cause catastrophic short- and long-term health effects.

It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls are living with FGM today, a gross underestimate, as this number reflects only 32 countries where reasonably accurate reporting is done. FGM is not just an Africa issue! It occurs on all continents except Antarctica. There is confirmed evidence of FGM in 92 countries (and counting).

FGM is on the doorstep of each one of us. There are more than 500,000 women and girls living with FGM in the US, with the sad reality that not all the states have legislation protecting women and girls. There are almost 600,000 girls and women living with FGM in Western Europe, and another 180,000 at risk. The countries with the highest prevalence in Western Europe are the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

FAWCO as an organization made a very brave decision to support through the Target Project, Safe Alternatives to FGM Elimination, a project of Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania. But you and I as individuals also have a role to play. In a recent blog, “What You and I Can Do to Stop FGM,” Hilary Burrage and I addressed important action items. I would like to highlight, in my opinion, the three most important calls to action:

  • Become familiar with the topic of FGM, the 2020–2022 FAWCO Target Project, and the resources offered by the Target Team to learn more about the topic by joining a  screening of In the Name of Your Daughter, Target Project workshops and discussions, and reading the Target Bulletin.
  • Where possible, lobby for what is needed and encourage others to collaborate. Lobbying needs to be done by everyone—survivors, activists, professionals, members of the public—at every level, across the media and across the spectrum of service delivery.
  • Make sure that information/knowledge about FGM practices is shared widely, so everyone can be more effective. Share your knowledge with your family, your children, friends, and in your community.


About the Author

Tharien van Eck is the Chair of the 2019–2022 Target Program Health, “Promoting Well-Being and Healthy Lives for Women and Girls.” Tharien, originally from South Africa, is living in Antwerp in Belgium. She is a physician by training and worked as a General Practitioner and Occupational Health Physician in South Africa until 2004, when she and her family relocated to Antwerp. She has two children, both finished with their studies and working in Belgium. Tharien then joined Johnson & Johnson, overseeing the development of workplace health programs in all the J&J factories and offices across Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. She retired in 2017 and when not working on the Target Program, enjoys watercolor painting, reading, walking and cycling, and needlework.

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