“Women don’t make any decisions in our village. If you refuse to get your daughters excised, the elderly (heads of family) will dismiss you from the village for breaking with tradition. When I had my daughters, my mother advised me not to have them excised because she is a midwife and aware of the harm. However, I did not follow her advice because I did not want to be the first person to break with the tradition in my family. During the vacation, I took my five girls to Bamako to get them excised by medical staff. When I told my mother her answer was, “One day, you will regret your act” and now this day has arrived.”
This testimony from a Malian woman was recorded during a 2006 study by the Pan African Christian Women Alliance. 28 Too Many’s new research on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mali shows that eight years later little has changed. There is still great social pressure for girls to be excised and prevalence remains high with an estimated 91% of girls and women having experienced FGM. The data also shows that the average age of cutting is falling so that many girls are cut as infants and the majority of girls (73%) are cut below five years of age.
A further complication in Mali is the 2012 coup and following unrest which has disrupted programmes to combat FGM and other health and human rights issues. Many have had to flee the conflict into southern Mali and areas of northern Niger and Burkina Faso, where they live in marginalised positions. There is evidence that they have started to adopt the social norms of their new neighbours and that families who did not formerly do so are now cutting their daughters.
“FGM remains a major problem in Mali,” says Dr Ann-Marie Wilson, Executive Director of 28 Too Many. “I hope that this new report will lead to action and encourage support for local community based projects to end FGM. Our research shows that progress will only be made effectively through inter-generational dialogue and engaging with all members of communities where FGM is practised.”
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