Mali has one of the highest rates of FGM. Our Country Profile: FGM in Mali, shows that the national prevalence rate remains at 91% and there has been little change over recent years. Moreover despite high awareness of FGM, many Malians believe that the practice should continue. This means that unless action is taken 9 out of 10 girls in Mali are at risk of FGM.
“FGM in Mali is rife, but it is not talked about,” said 28 Too Many’s researcher Gemma Locke who lives in Mali. “It is such a strange and sensitive subject. Having spoken with people actively working against FGM in Mali I've come to realise that this is going to be a long slow and difficult process as we work to eventually eradicate the practice.”
“One of the challenges is that when you ask about FGM it's hard to know if the answer you are given is the truth or what they want you to hear. People are often afraid to speak against the practice as they do not want to be seen as breaking with tradition and can face censure and exclusion from the community for speaking out against FGM. Only the most determined will be outspoken about how wrong it is and how they will not cut their own daughters, but often even then they will really only talk about it with people they trust and have known for a long time.”
It will not be easy to change attitudes and end FGM in Mali but Gemma does see signs of hope and has spoken to local NGOs to hear of the work taking place in communities across the country. “Raising awareness and educating people about FGM are important and so is encouraging discussion within families and communities to change attitudes,” explained Gemma. “It is hard for individuals to stand against this harmful practice but together, groups of people are a powerful force for change.
“Since moving to Mali, every time a friend or member of our community has a baby girl the worry of FGM is one of my first thoughts but slowly people are beginning to address the subject even though it is so sensitive,” said Gemma. “Recently one local friend with a young daughter had a change of heart and bravely decided not to carry out FGM. This was a huge decision. She talks about her choice with trusted friends in the safe space provided by her local church, but the fact that is she talking about it and helping others understand is so important. She's a great character and I really hope her strength and enthusiasm, and that of other inspiring women who are making similar choices, will cause a ripple effect in stopping this.”
28 Too Many is undertaking pioneering work to research FGM and campaign internationally for the end of this harmful practice. You can support our work by making a donation or setting up a standing order. You can also help us by liking 28 Too Many on Facebook and following us on Twitter for regular updates on our work.