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Don’t leave girls behind – SDGs must include FGM and child marriage

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Banner promoting the UN SDGs

On 25 September 2015 at the United Nations, the world’s leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a roadmap whose “goals and targets will stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet.” Covering 17 goals and 169 targets, “Agenda 2030” addresses many issues ranging from poverty to HIV/AIDS to climate change. And, for the first time, the gender equality goal includes targets aimed at ending violence and discrimination against women and girls, including a specific target on eliminating female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM), both of which have an irreversible and lifelong impact.

A UN expert group is currently developing indicators to measure progress toward achieving the agreed upon goals and targets. These indicators are critical to holding states accountable to achieving the commitments – what gets measured gets done. Recognizing that eliminating female genital mutilation and the marriage of children are crucial to ensuring “that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives,” the group’s proposal includes indicators measuring both violations. Equality Now and our partners are therefore seriously concerned at a push by UN member states to minimize the number of indicators, the possible elimination of the FGM indicator altogether, and the current restriction to measure FGM only in “relevant countries.”

Right now, more than 700 million women and girls are living with the damaging effects of FGM and CEFM and millions more are at risk of both as FGM is often an immediate pre-cursor to CEFM. Though often hidden, both human rights violations can be found in nearly every country in the world. If the FGM indicator is limited to only specific countries or eliminated completely, millions of women and girls will remain invisible and uncounted and continue to suffer as a result, relevant data on the on the agreed target won’t be collected and we won’t know if states are actually making progress or which interventions are most effective. 

The SDGs will guide global development and funding until 2030, so global indicators are critical. Please help us ensure the indicators measure both FGM and CEFM everywhere women and girls are affected!

The expert group is meeting at the end of October to further develop the indicators which will be finalized by the end of 2015 and formally adopted in March 2016.  However, there is a push by UN member states to minimize the number of indicators, to possibly eliminate the FGM indicator altogether, and alarmingly, the FGM indicator is currently restricted to only “relevant countries.”