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Nearly 200 practitioners and advocates gathered at CGD recently for an update on efforts to end within a generation female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage. A satellite event for a Girl Summit in London hosted by British prime minister David Cameron and UNICEF, the CGD event was organized in conjunction with British Embassy, Girls Not Brides USA, and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.
Welcoming the audience to the Birdsall House, CGD president Nancy Birdsall said that she had agreed to name the conference center in her honor provided that it serves not only as a space for presenting CGD’s own work but also as “a welcoming venue for the community concerned with women and development and gender equality.” She described CGD’s previous work on girls’ health and education (see here, here and here) and said that CGD senior fellow Charles Kenny is leading efforts to “find where we can have value added to an incredibly rich body of policy work and research.”
Patrick Davies, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy, then described the Summit’s core themes: “Sharing What Works” and “Agreeing an Agenda for Change.” Quoting from prime minister Cameron’s remarks at the London event, Davies said: “It is absolutely clear what we are trying to achieve. It such a simple, but noble and good ambition, and this is to outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage; to outlaw them everywhere, for everyone within a generation.”
The first panel, on Sharing What Works, was moderated by Judithe Registre, PLAN International USA, Coalition for Adolescent Girls Steering Committee, and featured:
Ann Warner, Senior Gender and Youth Specialist, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Representative, Girls Not Brides, who highlighted ICRW strategies to help end child marriage: (1) providing social support and education to girls who are at risk of early marriage and who are already married, and (2) working with girls’ families and communities as girls often don’t have the power to control their own futures. Warner announced ICRW and the World Bank will be conducting a three-year study to define the economic costs of child and early forced marriage.
Antonia Kirkland, Legal Advisor, Equality Now, stressed that ending FGM—which she said affects an estimated 3 million girls each year—is a human rights issue. While enforcement of laws prohibiting FGM can be a major deterrent, ending FGM will require further raising awareness and educating people about how they can help to prevent the practice.
- Jeanne Smoot, Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy, Tahirih Justice Center, described a 2011 US national survey of 500 teachers, police officers, domestic violence advocates and social workers, which revealed 3,000 cases of forced marriage had been encountered in the US. She announced that the Tahirih Justice Center, in collaboration with a partner in Canada, will be launching a major outreach tour this September in New York.
Between panels, a brief video of UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon from the London event was shown. Secretary Ki Moon called for the end of FGM and early and child forced marriages and commended “global leaders and brave activities for confronting these problems, especially the courageous young women in these affected communities.”
The second panel, on Agreeing an Agenda for Change, focused on UK and US governments’ commitments to help end FGM and early and forced marriages. The panel was moderated by Rachel Vogelstein, Director of Women and Girls Programs, Clinton Foundation, and featured:
Emma Wade, Counsellor of the Foreign and Security Policy Group, British Embassy, who shared the UK government’s efforts, including donating $50 million to support 17 African countries to end FGM, $40 million to a joint UN program around ending child marriage, and $50 million to a new research program to find the best ways of transforming the lives of poor girls. Domestically, the UK has established and is enforcing relevant laws to provide the legal framework to address such issues and prime minister Cameron has committed $2.4 million to a prevention and care initiative.
Carla Koppell, Chief Strategy Officer and former Senior Gender Coordinator, US Agency for International Development, underscored that an integrated framework to ending FGM and child marriage – i.e., one that includes the education, health, legal and economic sectors – is critical to USG efforts. She also reiterated USAID administrator Raj Shah’s announcements from the London event, highlighting that the USG has committed to investments in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Yemen that will build on existing programs and complement efforts to change behaviors and attitudes and enforce laws surrounding FGM and child marriage.
- Wanda Jones, Assistance Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services, noted that data on the prevalence of FGM and child marriage in the US has been extremely limited. Efforts to raise awareness and build accountability for these issues in the US are just beginning, she said.