European Union External Action

International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

05/02/2021 - 18:23
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This Saturday, February 6, we are marking International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM is a grave human rights violation, that denies women and girls their human dignity, and often leads to life-long medical and psychological effects in its victims. In Liberia, many women and girls still suffer this harmful practice. The acceptance of violence towards women and girls as normal is wrong and must change. We all have the responsibility to say no, openly reject acts of violence, and stand by the women and girls who have been subjected to FGM.

In Liberia and worldwide, the EU and the UN continue to work together with survivors and communities affected to end FGM permanently. In 2017, the EU and the EU joined forces on a global, multi-year programme called Spotlight to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Through Spotlight, the EU is working with partners in different regions of the world to end gender based violence including FGM. Liberia is one of the 8 countries selected to be part of the Spotlight initiative in Africa. The Spotlight programme in Liberia, funded by the EU and the UN, is implemented by the UN, the Government of Liberia, civil society organizations, traditional actors and the private sector. The EU has committed 17 million US Dollars for the first two years of the programme.  

FGM can be eradicated if we all work together in the same direction. Different actors can come together to end FGM, including political and community leaders, members of the Executive and Legislature, civil society groups and traditional actors. All have a crucial and valuable role to play, as drivers of change.

Today, on Friday February 5, marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance against FGM, the Head of the EU Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, participated in an event funded by the EU-UN Spotlight programme under the theme ‘Together we can make a difference in ending FGM’, together with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and traditional leaders including the Head of the National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders. Find below Ambassador Delahousse’s speech at this event.

Event: International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM

Under the Theme: Together we can make a difference in ending FGM

5 February 2021

  • In 2015, during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit declared that female genital mutilation (FGM) must be eliminated, and also that it is a Sustainable Development Goal (SGD). So, what was the reason for this?
  • That is because it is one of the most serious human rights violations and the impact it has on women and girls is devastating. Because the impact ranges from immediate to long-term, with pain and suffering, and real damage and harm –physical, sexual and mental. Because, sometimes, it costs them their lives. Female genital mutilation does not benefit women and girls in any shape or form. It does, in fact, have a tremendous cost for their families, the community and any country at a large.
  • To address the issue of harmful practises and gender-based violence, we are convinced about the need to focus more on the root causes which are found in gender discrimination and power inequalities. Through the Spotlight Initiative the EU, in partnership with One UN, continues to support the Government, traditional leaders and civil society in this rigours work to promote gender-equitable social norms and improve the lives of women and girls.
  • While there have been important progresses in Liberia to prevent sexual and gender based violence; the passing of legal framework's such as the Rape law and Domestic Violence Act are some of them, and not to mentioned the increased awareness & discourse on women's rights, however there is yet a lot that still remains to be done.
  • Changing structurally embedded gender inequalities requires courageous and high level leadership as well as national ownership. In this light, the EU commends the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Government for taking the extra step in its commitments formalising the Anti-SGBV Roadmap with its pledges in 2020. One very important commitment made in the Anti-SGBV Roadmap was the undertaking to extend the Executive Order #92 temporarily banning FGM –until a law on FGM can be passed. We urge on continuous efforts to push for a legal framework addressing FGM as it is a crucial step in criminalising harmful practises and human rights violations on women and girls. 
  • Moreover, amongst traditional leaders we have also seen increased action on addressing harmful traditional practices, for instance showcased in the commitment of traditional leaders when signing the ‘Seven-Count Policy’ suspending Sande[1] for one year. We commend the traditional leaders in this regard and likewise urge you to follow these positive steps by signing and commit to the extension of the ‘Seven-Count Policy’.  You traditional leaders are also instrumental in encouraging your peers and community members to change the harmful traditional practises; and rather influence them to change harmful behaviours and beliefs – by leading by example advocating and speaking out amongst your members and communities on the necessity to stop FGM, and to indeed make Liberia a better and safe place. The EU remains your partner in this endeavour and we will continue through our support in the Spotlight Initiative.  
  • Thank you for your attention.


Some background:

FGM is widely practiced and acceptable in 11 out of 15 Liberian counties, and promoted by the Sande Society of which roughly 72% of rural women and girls is part of (MGCSP report, 2011). Moreover, memberships often leads to school dropouts, with over 40% of girls dropping out after attending the Sande often times as they are getting married.  Female traditional practitioners are called ‘Zoes’.

The traditional society for boys/men is called Poro.


[1] SANDE society i.e. Traditional Women Bush School.


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