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Harnessing Media for Social Change around Female Genital Cutting

February 6, 2018

Events like the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation represent a continuing effort to spotlight the practice of female genital cutting (FGC—also called circumcision or mutilation). Despite activism and senior religious voices condemning FGC, the practice persists, affecting over 200 million girls and women worldwide. The topic raises fundamental questions about why so many assume that there is a religious justification or obligation for this practice. It also highlights how difficult change can be, in this case where a practice is involved that is painful, has no benefits, and violates the dignity of all concerned. Courageous women who were cut themselves have emerged as some of the most powerful anti-FGC campaigners. The hashtag #endcuttinggirls is an example of efforts to raise awareness and encourage young people to speak out against FGC.

What more can be done to advance efforts to end FGC? How might generational differences influence attitudes towards FGC in a given community? Has the changing nature of mass and social media affected the way FGC is practiced and perceived? How can media be used to move from awareness-raising to advocacy and political action or change? How does this fit into ideas of how social change can or should occur, and how quickly? How do varying religious messages about FGC complicate understandings of how religion functions within a society, a social change movement, or a transnational process such as development?

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Harnessing Media for Social Change around Female Genital Cutting