Monrovia – Liberia has joined the global community to observe the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), under the theme: ‘Her voice. Her future. Investing in Survivor-Led Movements to End Female Genital Mutilation.’ The theme calls for increasing survivors’ space for voicing out against the practice to protect girls at risk of being subjected to FGM.
Globally, more than 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM, a practice that involves the removal or injury of external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is a violation of human rights, causing irreversible physical and psychological harm to millions of girls and women across various communities.
Important progress has been made in eliminating FGM globally and in Liberia. Exactly, a year ago, on 6 February 2023, the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia (NACCEL), made a historic proclamation to ban the practice of FGM in Liberia. Since then, traditional ceremonies to effectively enforce the ban on FGM have been conducted in four out of 11 FGM practicing counties in Liberia, namely Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, Nimba and Bong counties.
Liberia also signalled its commitment to ending FGM during the global convening of world leaders and women’s rights activists at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris in 2021, where Liberia pledged to pursue efforts to end Gender Based Violence and became a signatory to the collective commitment on eradicating harmful practices, including FGM.
This year’s commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM will be held at the Vezela Vocational and Heritage Centre in Lofa County. Several activities are lined up to mark the anti-FGM Day including, traditional ceremonies to close bush schools and enforce the ban on FGM by NACCEL with technical support from the Liberia Crusaders For Peace and the official handover of the Vezela Heritage Centre to the Government of Liberia. Lofa is set to be the fifth county to conduct traditional ceremonies to ban FGM and close bush schools in the country.
The Vezela centre is one of the four vocational and heritage centres established by UN Women with funding from the European Union and the United Nations through the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women, harmful practices and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights. Vocational and heritage centers provide dedicated learning space to teach former FGM traditional practitioners new skills to enable them to pursue alternative sources of income to replace FGM. Other heritage centres are located in Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado and Nimba counties.
To date, over 800 former traditional practitioners of FGM are benefitting from alternative economic livelihood programs such as climate smart agriculture, business and vocational skills training with support from the European Union, United Nations and Government of Liberia Spotlight Initiative.
As we observe the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, UN Women commends the traditional leaders and communities for their unwavering commitment to ending FGM in Liberia and embracing the concept of ‘initiation without mutilation’ which upholds positive cultural practices as part of the rites of passage of young girls, whilst eliminating FGM.
“Although progress has been made in eliminating FGM, Liberia is one of only three counties in the region yet to outlaw FGM,” says Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Liberia Country Representative.
“We call on all stakeholders to continue ensuring collective commitment to ending this harmful practice and ensuring the fundamental rights and dignity of women and girls are realised. We call on lawmakers to ensure that the FGM Bill that is currently before thelegislature is passed into law.”
UN Women is supporting the Government of Liberia and NACCEL to commemorate FGM Day and to conduct bush school closure events with funding from the Government of Sweden.