Hesperian Health Guides
Working for Change
If you are not sure how you feel about female genital cutting, weigh the risks to help you decide. Are the benefits of female genital cutting worth the health problems? Culture is always changing to meet new community needs. Can this practice also be changed?
What you can do:
If you do not agree with this practice, there are many ways you can help girls in your community:
- If you are a mother, help your daughters feel valued and loved, whether they are cut or not.
- Encourage your daughters to continue with their education and to learn enough to make their own decisions about their lives and their futures. Every child has a right to good health and an education.
- Share the information about the health problems caused by female genital cutting with other women and men in your community. Work with them for change.
- Find out what women’s organizations in your community or region are doing.
- If you are a health worker who does female genital cuttings, explain the risks to those who ask you.
- Get training on what to do for health problems of female genital cutting.
- Work for change with traditional and religious leaders. Religion does not support female genital cutting, but this has not been well understood. Try to discuss this with your religious leaders.
For real change to happen in your community, people must work together to end this harmful practice.
- Find ways to discourage female genital cutting ceremonies in your community. Find other rituals that can mark a girl’s passage from childhood to adulthood. These rituals could include prayers to the ancestors, or sacrifices that are not harmful to women. In many places there are coming-of-age rituals for girls that do not harm their health.
- Recognize the important role traditional birth attendants (TBAs) play in the health of the community. Since TBAs often perform female genital cutting, they need to be trained about its harmful effects. Find ways to replace the gifts they are given after cutting ceremonies, and look for other ways their help is needed in the community. If other rituals are used to replace female genital cutting, include TBAs as an important part of the giving and receiving of any gifts.