Female genital mutilation of girls on the decrease, says World Bank

New cases of female genital mutilation of young girls in Guinea, which was banned by government in 1984, have been reduced to 20 per cent, while over 450 female circumcisers have abandoned the practise since 1998, the World Bank said in a report on Tuesday.

The reduction in reported cases, it said, has resulted mainly from a vigorous campaign by a bank-funded project 'Ending Female Genital Mutilation' - implemented through a women's rights NGO, CPTAFE as well as the outspokenness of top government officials and Guinea's First Lady.

"Female circumcision in Guinea has traditionally been carried out by older, well-respected women within individual communities. In summer season, a circumciser can perform as many as 380 circumcisions on young girls aged 8 to 15," the World Bank said in its Development Marketplace report. It quoted Tshiya Subayi, operations analyst as saying: "The circumcisers are powerful women whom people go to for advice, and they're listened to," .

The Development Marketplace, which supports social entrepreneurs globally, last year awarded the project US $150,000 to provide circumcisers with training in alternative sources of livelihood and access to small business start-up funds. An additional US $250,000 was provided by the government of Guinea. CPTAFE then started a public awareness campaign, trained former circumcisers, and granted them US $1,000 each to start income generating activities.

"In Guinea, as in most West African nations, female genital cutting was common practice, said the report. While the government enacted legislation banning the practice in 1984, the law was only recently enforced.

"The campaign has contributed heavily to reducing the number of new circumcisions to roughly 20 percent of young girls nationwide," Subayi is quoted as saying the project is now seeking funding to expand to Benin, Burkina Faso, and Djibouti, and to integrate awareness campaigns into World Bank health and education programmes. This has happened in Mali and Senegal.

Female genital mutilation, which involves the cutting of parts of female genital organs, is a dangerous practise which often leads to excessive bleeding, death, chronic infections, sterility, and serious complications in childbirth.