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Suci’s Journey to Ending Female Genital Mutilation

When 24-year old Suci studied nursing at university, nothing was ever taught about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). While she had heard about FGM through her own mother, who had the mildest version of this practice performed on Suci as a baby, it was only once she started working at a clinic that she learnt of the widespread prevalence of this practice. Although data is weak and stronger methodologies are needed to obtain more reliable data, it is estimated that one in two Indonesian girls have undergone some form of FGM.

FGM includes all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is widely practised by communities across Indonesia on girls between the ages of zero and eleven and is done with the purpose of “purifying girls” and controlling their sexual urges later as adults. Many believe that FGM is part of a religious requirement and has medical benefits despite there being no religious literature or medical evidence to support this.

Indeed FGM is a practice deeply rooted in traditions which have been passed down over generations. The United Nations Secretary-General has called “female genital mutilation a blatant manifestation of gender inequality that is deeply entrenched in social, economic and political structures. It is also a human rights violation and an extreme form of violence against girls.”

At the global level, the UN strives to fully eradicate FGM within the next decade, as it works to achieve the targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development-a global plan with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at their heart which are an urgent call for action by all countries to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. In this framework, FGM is directly linked to SDG 5, which ensures gender equality and the empowerment of women.

When Suci first had clients walk in asking her for a “new born package”, which consisted of getting their babies’ ears pierced, FGM and an overall health check, she performed her duty diligently. Following a year and a half of performing FGM, Suci attended a workshop led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which sparked her interest in learning more about the actual benefits of the practice. When she realised that there were no health benefits, she began educating people and communities about the harmful effects of FGM. It is through education that she deals with FGM at a grassroots level to ensure the practice does not continue.

Suci is one of many courageous Indonesian women who is taking a strong stance against FGM, playing her part in advocating for change. In doing so, she highlights the power of young people to make their voices heard as we work together to make this the decade of zero female genital mutilation.

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