Over 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have experienced some form of genital mutilation, according to a new UNICEF report. And if current trends continue, the number of girls cut annually will continue to rise year over year, the U.N. says, since population growth is outstripping efforts to reduce the practice.
But on Saturday, the U.N.'s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the organization wants to sound a hopeful note.
"Never before has it been more urgent, or more possible, to end the practice of female genital mutilation," Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement leading up to the dedicated day.
"I am encouraged by the rising chorus of young voices demanding an end to the practice," he said. "We can end FGM within a generation."
The fight against FGM has long been led by women, Teri Schultz reports for our Newscast unit, but that's changing.
"The latest U.N. report shows it's often men who are more opposed to the practice. A new European campaign to end FGM is being led by some of those men," she says. Female genital mutilation is banned in all European Union countries, Teri notes, but an estimated half a million women in Europe have been affected by the practice.
"Alpha-Ibrahim Diallo is originally from Guinea, where almost all women are circumcised. Now living in Belgium and the father of three girls, he is part of the "MenSpeakOut" project, educating others about the dangers of FGM."
"I know it won't be easy, but together we have to fight!" Diallo says.
Secretary-General Ban told The Guardianthat it's time "for men all over the world to take up the fight to end FGM with real dedication."