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The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation: in the field and through images, the fight continues

The distressing and harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), defined by the UN as “all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons” continues to be prevalent around the world today. According to the most recent UNICEF report, more than 200 million young women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation and another 3 million girls, the majority under the age of 15, are at risk every year. FGM, which has no health benefits and no link to religion, causes unbearable pain and health complications that include infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

This brutal practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. Organizations around the world and filmmakers, who wish to highlight this painful topic, are mobilizing and focusing their actions on prevention and awareness raising.

The fight continues in the field

In the United Kingdom, the Foundation’s partner Birmingham & Sollihul Women’s Aid has been providing medical, legal and psychological support to women who are survivors of female genital mutilation since 2010. Stemming from the realization that women who had undergone FGM were not receiving the comprehensive care they needed, the organization put into place a community based approach in order to improve their overall well-being.

In France, Excision, parlons-en launched its FGM Alert campaign in 2017 to warn and protect adolescent girls in France, who are at high risk of being cut during summer holidays, when they return to their families’ countries of origin. This year, the organization has developed an online chat tool that allows girls to share their doubts and questions anonymously.

La Maison des Femmes, outside of Paris, is a “one-stop” shop for women in need, 14% of whom are survivors of female genital mutilation. These women receive care and comprehensive guidance, not only medical, but also psychological, emotional, mental and physical.

Filmmakers put a spotlight on this brutal practice and the life-long consequences

Beyond the essential work being done by organizations, the film industry is also raising awareness, by taking a close look at this subject through documentaries and movies that show the painful and lasting effects:

  • Jaha’s Promise, 2017 (US Documentary)

Jaha Dukureh makes the courageous choice to return to Gambia to share her story and raise awareness among the women in her community about the dangers of female genital mutilation, after having been cut at the age of 15 and then forced into marriage.

  • A Girl From Mogadishu, 2018 (Film)

This biographical film tells the story of activist Ifrah Ahmed (played by Aja Naomi King), a young Somalian woman who immigrated to Ireland as a teenager. After undergoing a cutting procedure twice, Ifrah vows to spend her life fighting this practice in her home country and internationally.

  • Excision, le plaisir interdit, 2017 (French Documentary)

For Mireille Darc’s last documentary, she turns the spotlight on women who are survivors of female genital mutilation living in France and their powerful testimonials: “I left innocence to enter violence, the barbarity of life”.

To watch, to read

The Silence Breakers: the voices that launched a movement

Cover of Time magazine published on December 6th, BILLY & HELLS/AFP

On December 6th, the American magazine Time paid tribute to all the courageous and empowered women who have dared to break the silence around sexual harassment. The Silence Breakers are the Person of the Year 2017. For this edition, the magazine did not choose a single person but a movement, represented on the cover by the women who had the courage to raise their voices, share their stories and speak out about the experiences they had long endured: from Harvey Weinstein’s “coercive behaviors” to the frat-boy culture at Uber, to the continuous sexual harassment within the California state government. These inspiring women, and millions of others who have joined the movement, have unleashed one of the fastest cultural shifts in the last 50 years, provoking an unprecedented tidal wave: CEOs have been fired, icons have fallen from their pedestals and in some cases, criminal charges have been filed.

“For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year” outlines Edward Felsenthal, Editor in Chief of Time Magazine

#MeToo, #BalanceTonPorc, and #YoTambien have shone a light on cultures where sexual harassment has been viewed as acceptable for far too long. Women have not only had to endure physical aggressions and lewd comments, but also a sense of shame, of somehow believing it was their fault: “Did I ask for it?”, “Could I have done something more to stop it?”, “Am I over-reacting”, as well as fear of speaking out, of losing their jobs. These national initiatives launched on social networks have spread rapidly and caused a surge of media attention, that continues to grow.


If someone is bold and stands up and tells their story and you are not ready to do that (…) to just simply say #MeToo is powerful”, says Tarana Burke, Founder of Girls for Gender Equity and creator of the Me Too movement.

Discover the Silence Breakers' powerful stories here.

An eye on

"Saving lives at sea": a striking report by Human Rights Watch

Photo Credit: SOS MEDITERRANEE rescuers help a Somali woman off their rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) so she can board the Aquarius. October 11, 2017 ANTHONY JEAN/SOS MEDITERRANEE



It has been almost 3 years since thousands of men and women began crossing the Mediterranean Sea searching for a better future. According to Human Rights Watch, it is the deadliest migratory journey in the world, with over 15,000 deaths recorded since 2014. In 2017 alone, almost 3,000 people have gone missing or lost their lives trying to reach the other side of the Mediterranean. The fact that thousands of people are willing to risk their lives is proof of their desperation and their determination to flee from famine, repression, harmful traditional practices or other hardships at home.

In this report, Judith Sunderland, Associate Director for Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, talks about her journey last October aboard SOS Mediterranean’s ship Aquarius.

“For 10 long days in early October, I wondered whether we would make any rescues. I didn’t want people to be at risk, I just wanted our ship to be there if they needed it. Then the Aquarius rescued 606 people in 36 hours.”

Want to make a difference by supporting Human Rights Watch? Donate here!


Read the powerful report here

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