Working for Change 467
• 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
• 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.
• 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.
➤ For real change
to happen in your
must work together
to end this harmful
Female genital cutting, human rights, and the law
This chapter describes the health problems that female genital cutting can cause.
But even if no health problems occur, a girl who has had her genitals cut has still been
harmed in a way that can affect her future life. Female genital cutting is done to girls
who, by law, are not old enough to make their own decisions. Although parents may
believe cutting will help improve a girl’s social status, in fact it hurts her emotionally,
physically, and sexually. That is why the United Nations, the World Health Organization
and UNICEF have declared female genital cutting a violation of girls’ human rights.
Several African countries (such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast,Togo, and
Senegal), as well as Canada, Australia, the United States, and some countries in Europe
have passed laws against female genital cutting. More countries are thinking of passing
similar laws. In most countries, groups of doctors, nurses, and health workers oppose
cutting the genitals of girls. Together with lawyers, teachers and others, they are
working to stop this painful and unnecessary practice. It is important that those who
care about health also defend the rights of young girls to stay healthy by keeping their
bodies intact—uncut and unchanged.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012