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7 ways to end FGM

Older generations in Mali are changing their perceptions of FGM.

Older generations are increasingly turning against FGM after learning the risks and realities of the practice.

Lessons from Mali

They say it takes a village to raise a child - but conversations with a community in Mali suggest it will take family, community and government support to end female genital mutilation (FGM) for good.

Grandparents, mothers, fathers and mother-in-laws all have their role to play, as do religious leaders who can help dispel the myth that FGM is a religious necessity.

In Mali, 76% of girls up to the age of 14 have undergone female genital cutting, compared to 83% of 15 to 49-year-olds - suggesting a declining trend. However, the practice has not yet officially been outlawed by the government.

Here are 7 lessons from a community Plan International is working with in Mali on how to end this harmful custom for good.


Learn more about our work to end FGM


Grandmother Alima, with daughter-in-law Fatoumata, and granddaughter Awa, 6.

2. Change traditions - with the support of older generations

“In the past, grandmothers used to tell fairy tales and fables containing concealed life lessons. But nowadays children just don’t want to know. Similarly, grandmothers were the ones who provided sexual education. We’ve lost that role too, but I think it should be reinstated.” says Ma, 65 (pictured below).

“We grandmothers have the time to keep an eye on things. If a granddaughter goes out and comes home late, her grandmother would be able to tell by the twinkle in her eye if she’s fallen in love. Children are often more inclined to tell something to their grandmother rather than their mother.”

Grandmother Ma, 65, with daughter-in-law Aissata, 30, and granddaughter Kadiatou, 8.
Grandmother Fatoumata, 55, with her daughter Sanaba and granddaughter Aissatou, 3..

4. Speak out about the risks and realities of FGM

FGM has lasting physical and mental consequences that need to be discussed so that girls and women no longer have to suffer in silence.

“M’Pène is 4 now, but we decided when she was born that we didn’t want her to be cut. That’s because I’d seen photos and a video of a girl’s cutting. My husband agrees with me. He’s a member of the village council, as a medical advisor, so he knows what’s involved. He watches a lot on TV about it and listens to the radio,” says Korotoumou, 30.

“This is the first time that my mother-in-law and I have discussed cutting. The opinion of a girl’s grandmother is crucial. I’m sure that if grandmothers were to see these images, they too would want to stop cutting. We’ll find a solution to the issue of cutting. And daring to talk about it is the first step.”

Imam Nega Sacko, 48, with a photograph of his daughter who died after being cut.

6. Tackle the secrecy that allows cutting to continue

“In the old days, genital cutting was an initiation rite for girls, to prepare them for their future. The whole community would participate. But nowadays it’s become more controversial and it usually takes place discreetly at home. And the girls who are cut are getting younger and younger. This is because the younger a girl is, the less likely she’ll be to discuss it with her friends,” says Fatoumata.

Rokia, a grandmother of 92, says the practice is in steady decline: “Here in the village, there are no more cutting ceremonies. People do occasionally have their daughters cut, but they take them to neighbouring villages. Or they’ll have the cutter come in secrecy, because they know that people will gossip.”

Grandmother Rokia with her daughter-in-law Korotoumou and grandaughter M’Pène
Djaminatou became a village educator after Plan International started a project in her community to end the cutting of girls.

As well as the need for legislative change, it's essential that the traditional attitudes and social norms that allow FGM to continue are tackled so that open honest discussions about the risks and consequences of FGM may happen.

Learn more about our work to end FGM

Priority areas
Sexual health and rights