A lot of people have to come together to improve girls’ rights. Governments, businesses, organizations, and of course, girls themselves.
But sometimes, the biggest changes for girls come when their fathers stand up for them.
A dad stands up
Sekou Soya, from Guinea, has 9 daughters! He took a bold step for girls’ rights in his community: he wouldn’t let his daughters go through the process of female genital cutting. At first, the people in his village rejected him and his family, banning them from using the communal well. But, now the whole village has rejected cutting and have reconnected with Soya’s family.
Female genital cutting is when a girl or woman’s external genitals are partially or totally removed. The procedure isn’t done for medical reasons; it is often performed as an initiation rite when girls go through puberty.
An estimated 100 million to 140 million girls worldwide have undergone female genital cutting and it is one of the major causes of sickness and death among girls and young women in the areas where it’s practiced.
Female genital cutting can cause both physical and mental harm. Problems with menstruation, intercourse, and childbirth, severe pain, hemorrhage, tetanus, infection, infertility, cysts and abscesses, urinary incontinence are all possible side-effects of cutting. When a girl is cut by people she loves, the emotional impact can be harsh and lifelong.
Last week, on February 6, the world recognized the annual International Day for Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.
Trading blades for books
Despite the devastation of female genital cutting, there is good news. Communities like Sekou’s in Guinea and Chief Amadu’s in Sierra Leone are paving the way for a world where female genital cutting is no longer tolerated and blades are traded for books.
Because female genital cutting is a deeply traditional part of many local cultures and usually not discussed openly, changing attitudes is a long, slow process requiring great sensitivity and patience.
Plan works closely with local partners to change attitudes and long-held beliefs about cutting through education. We:
- Hold information sessions for community members, including youth and parents
- Train local midwives as counsellors, and they become valued partners in carrying the message throughout the community
- Provide training and information for health personnel, social workers and teachers
- Conduct public awareness campaigns through radio and brochures
- Lobby leaders at all levels to adopt policies to eradicate the practice.
Slow change leads to girls’ empowerment
Supporting girls’ rights isn’t as easy as just changing rules. You have to change perceptions about what it means to be a girl. For this reason, Plan doesn’t just focus on one issue in the communities we work. Instead, we dive in deep to start at the roots with girls’ empowerment.
Change happens slowly but when girls are empowered, female genital cutting, along with other girls’ issues like early marriage or dropping out of school, comes to an end. It helps to have your Dad stand up for your rights.