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Combating FGM in Egypt

Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains one of the most serious issues affecting many girls in Egypt. Hoda, a 12-year old girl, could have been seriously affected had her mother not been aware of the dangers and intervened.

Women during one of the awareness raising activities on combating FGM in Egypt.

All children have the right to reach their full potential and Plan International Egypt has used its years of experience in this sector to develop and introduce a specific programme to contribute to the empowerment and protection of children, focusing especially on the most vulnerable.

Children in Egypt are generally told that taboo traditions and customs must be followed without any negotiation. FGM is one such tradition that although now banned by the Egyptian law, still affects more than 17% of girls in Egypt under the age of 14.

Being born to parents who were originally from Upper Egypt could have made circumcising Hoda, 12, inevitable, if her mother Salwa had not decided to challenge the long standing tradition.  

Severe bleeding

Salwa started to work in one of the community development associations in her community in Cairo. One day while she was at work, Salwa received a call from her sister informing her that her niece was suffering from severe bleeding as a result of undergoing circumcision.

“That day, I could hardly sleep. I was so worried lest something worse would happen to my niece. When I was informed that she got better, I felt a little bit relieved, but another scary thought haunted my mind. What would happen to my only daughter Hoda when she reaches the age she has to be circumcised? The idea itself made me shiver,” recalls Salwa.

Promoting awareness

When Salwa heard about the awareness raising activities Plan International Egypt was supporting to promote sexual and reproductive awareness, she started to attend regularly. During the session about harmful traditional practices, Salwa asked many questions, and all the answers she heard made her more determined not to expose her daughter to FGM.

I decided that my daughter should never be another victim of it

“The sessions were very useful as they were facilitated by a religious leader and a physician. I learnt how FGM is harmful not just because of its immediate effect but also because of its long-term impact. I decided that my daughter should never be another victim of it.”

Salwa’s main challenge was how to convince her husband to abandon FGM. After many attempts, she reached a compromise and agreed with him to seek the advice of a trustworthy doctor.

“I also managed to persuade my husband to attend one of the awareness raising sessions. It was a turning point in the way he perceives FGM. After that session, he told me that we would never expose our daughter to such brutal practice. I was so happy that finally he made that decision.”

Stopping FGM in Egypt

Reducing the social pressure by addressing the false beliefs about harmful traditional practices is one of the main objectives of Plan International Egypt’s all-encompassing project, implemented since 2006 to end harmful traditional practices.

The project seeks to engage boys and men as key partners in ending gender-based violence. Activities of the project include establishing information corners for young people to access the right sexual and reproductive health information, awareness raising sessions and community-based advocacy campaigns.

Over 2014, the project reached almost 4,800 people in 6 communities in 2 regions where we operate. 

Read about Plan International's global work to stop FGM