Press release: Young leaders propel African authorities to deliver actions to end FGM and child marriage


Dakar/London, 26 June 2019—The first African Summit to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Marriage convened by the governments of Senegal and The Gambia, in partnership with the survivor-led NGO, Safe Hands for Girls, and with the support of multilateral organizations, including UN Women, UNFPA and the World Bank, took place in Dakar, Senegal on 16-18 June 2019. 

The Africa4Girls Summit was attended by 500 participants, and marks the first initiative bringing together leaders from all sectors: Governments, religious leaders, traditional community leaders, alongside young civil society leaders, notably young women activists and survivors of FGM and child marriage. Ministers, UN leaders and Heads of State from 17 African governments attended the three-day Summit. Religious leaders included the deputy Grand Imam of Al Azhar Institute, considered the leading authority on Islamic jurisprudence, as well as representatives from Christian and other faiths.

The focus of the Summit was to catalyse cross-sectoral and cross-border actions, recognising that national laws against FGM and Child Marriage alone have not eradicated these harmful practices, which are deeply rooted in cultural norms, often undertaken in the name of religion.

The negative health and psychological impacts of FGM are borne by 200 million women, and a further 50 million girls are at risk of becoming victim. Some countries have seen up to 10 per cent reductions in the practice of FGM through policy-led approaches, yet FGM still impacts between 15 per cent and 95 per cent of girls in 20 African countries, and change remains elusive in many such as Sudan, Mali, Djibouti and Sierra Leone. About four in five FGM procedures are conducted by traditional cutters.

Thirty-nine per cent of Africa’s girls are married before the age of 18. Thirteen per cent are married before 15. The dangerous health impacts of early births, the removal of girls from education and other consequences are associated with the persistence of poverty for these girls and their offspring. According to the World Bank, not only does child marriage leads to billions of dollars in lost earnings (7.6 billion USD is lost per annum in Nigeria alone), it also increases the cost burden to national healthcare systems. Child marriage is associated with higher maternal mortality due to early births, under five child mortality and malnutrition.

“I welcome the breakthrough achievements of this Summit, and the participants’ commitments to make the change that lie within their authority. We need all of society to take a stand on both FGM and child marriage to make sure that there are no excuses for harming women and girls in the name of religion, tradition or cultural beliefs," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, who attended the Africa4Girls Summit. “I am proud of our Regional Goodwill Ambassador Jaha Dukureh, who is leading a new generation of young African activists to bring their lived experience and ambitions for their continent to inform policy making and radically accelerate progress on ending these harmful practices. We all need to support and sustain these young leaders.”

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