“Eliminating FGM is an essential step to realizing other SDGs”—Lakshmi Puri

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the United States National Summit on Female Genital Mutilation on 2 December in Washington D.C.


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Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear colleagues,

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the most serious violations of human rights of women and girls and no amount of sophistry by its proponents and apologists can change that.

In 2015, 194 countries at the highest level of government at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit have declared that it must be eliminated and that it's a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target. So that's final! 

Why did they do that? 

Because its impact ranges from immediate to long-term.

Because it causes pain and suffering, and real damage and harm—physical, sexual and mental for millions of women and girls around the world.

Because it cuts into their chances to reach their full potential.

And because sometimes, it costs them their lives. 

And besides its pervasive impact on girls, FGM also has tremendous costs for their families, the community and the country at large.

Compounded discrimination and gender inequalities can reinforce vulnerabilities to the practice. 

But the most critical root cause remains the belief that men—fathers, husbands, traditional and community leaders—have an entitlement over women’s bodies and a right, or even a responsibility, to control their behaviour or protect their “honour”. This cannot be and has to change. 

However, at UN Women, we believe that harmful practices such as FGM cannot be addressed in isolation and that they need to be treated through a holistic and comprehensive approach to all forms of violence, with a focus on prevention.

Interventions must address those social norms that condone violence and that push many women to cut their daughters and granddaughters, because they think that it will protect them. 

Prevention interventions should focus, among others, on mobilizing communities, traditional and faith leaders, women and men, as agents of change. 

Eliminating FGM is an essential step to realizing other SDGs, including targets on health and well-being, quality education, safe motherhood and economic growth, all of which are underpinned by work that empowers women and girls and achieves gender equality.

While this recognition is a critical step, it is not enough. We need to put these commitments into action and take responsibility as a global community for ending FGM. 

This is why UN Women is proud to be collaborating with the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, to support countries to address the root causes of this harmful practice. 

This is why UN Women stood firmly behind the UN Secretary-General in his constant efforts to mobilize the global community against this practice. The award that he is receiving today highlights, once again, his persistent commitment to a future where every woman and every girl can experience her inherent dignity, human rights and equality by 2030.

After all, as he famously said at the 60th Commission on the Status of Women earlier this year, we need to reach a place where FGM should stand for Focus on Girls' Minds—not on harming their minds and bodies. We must make sure that Finally Girls Matter! 

Let’s see his video message! 

Thank you!