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International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation
Remarks by Shane L. Dixon, Charge d'Affaires, a.i., U.S. Embassy
February 6, 2024

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Chargé d’Affaires Shane L. Dixon’s Remarks on International Day of zero tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Tuesday, February 6, 2024


Good morning, distinguished guests, partners, and friends.

Today, we gather to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a practice that profoundly affects the lives of girls and women, not just in Somalia but around the world.

In Somalia, the prevalence of FGM is alarmingly high, with recent studies indicating nearly all girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone this procedure, primarily between the ages of five and nine.  These statistics, while staggering, represent more than just numbers; they represent individual lives deeply impacted by a practice that offers no medical benefit and poses significant risks.

The consequences of FGM are severe and multifaceted.  Women and girls subjected to FGM face immediate risks of infection, hemorrhage, and even death.  Long-term implications include increased risk of birth complications, mental health disorders, and reduced opportunities for growth and development.  In a nation striving towards modern democracy, practices like FGM have no place.

It is heartening to see such passionate activism among us today.  I have had the pleasure of previously working with Dr. Nina Smart, who will address the group later in today’s session.  She is a highly respected activist who has dedicated her life to stopping FGM.  I also extend my deepest admiration to the civil society members in attendance, who are tirelessly working to propel Somali society forward in its crucial battle against FGM and other pivotal women’s issues. Your dedication is the bedrock of progress and change.  Please continue this vital work with the knowledge that your efforts are both recognized and deeply appreciated.

I would like to pause here to recognize Her Excellency, the late Minister Khadija Dirie.  She dedicated her life to the just cause of advancing women’s rights.  Although we lost her too soon, she left a lasting legacy through the countless lives she improved.

I commend the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for your work to end FGM in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5.  The U.S. government stands firmly in support of these efforts.  We are committed to working with the UN, local organizations, and the Somali government to address the root causes of FGM, including gender inequality, religious narratives, and limited educational and economic opportunities for girls and women.

The U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu actively supports initiatives that promote women’s rights, health, and education, understanding that these are critical steps toward ending FGM.  Through our partnerships, we aim to empower women and girls, provide access to education and health services, and support community-led dialogues to change the social norms that perpetuate FGM.

Additionally, we are committed to improving the lives and futures for women and children in Somalia across other key issues.  Through USAID, we recently launched a four-year, $2.7 million Maternal and Child Health Project which aims to support training and promote employment of 130 midwives, increasing women’s access to health services and ensuring safer conditions for mothers and their infants.  This work goes hand in hand with Ministries of Health and Women and Human Rights Development, who work tirelessly to bring solutions to the problems facing Somalia.

As we stand here today, let us reaffirm our collective commitment to ending Female Genital Mutilation.  Let us pledge to protect the rights, health, and futures of girls and women not just in Somalia, but everywhere.  Together, we can turn the tide against FGM and ensure that girls and women live in a world where their bodies are respected, their voices are heard, and their potential is unhindered.

Thank you.