Female Genital Mutilation – FGM – is a global issue that continues to present challenges for Soroptimists when attempting to improve the lives of women and girls. Though a difficult subject to discuss, it is important that we face the ugly truth about FGM.

According to United Nations Reports, this harmful traditional practice affects over 200 million girls and women today. Dr. Nina Smart is a Soroptimist and a non-violent activist who has been active partner with the African Coalition,  worked for 15 years to end FGM, Dr. Smart has a personal investment in eradicating this practice and, to that end, she has been proud to share her  own story of survival. She  have dedicated her adult life to researching FGM, and through SWF International, the Los Angeles based organization she founded in 2004, and partnered with the African Coalition  to find effective solutions to end this practice.

At the global level, FGM is a human rights violation, but at the local level, it is a traditional practice believed to protect the family honor of a girl, shape her identity, and if not performed, will bring shame to her community, her household, and especially her father. Hence, involving men in our global efforts to end FGM is critical. The United Nations’ initiative ‘He for She’ is a step in the right direction on the very challenging road to ending FGM.

Education of both men and women on the many effects of this harmful traditional practice also proves essential to finding those effective solutions we seek. Learning that women and girls who survived the extensive bleeding during and after an FGM procedure still have a lot of problems urinating, bearing children as well as enduring lifetime psychological and emotional damage allows community leaders, often male, and the very women who perform the cutting to work together with non-violent activists. Finding alternative ways to address the economic factor of FGM, often ignored when discussing this harmful practice, benefits both the girls at risk and the women who earn a living when performing this procedure. Eradicating the practice requires rethinking and retraining that must involve everyone in the practicing community for it to be a lasting change.