Skip to main content

Reporting on Female Genital Mutilation: A toolkit for journalists and editors

This toolkit is for media professionals in Kenya and provides guidelines on how to report on female genital mutilation (FGM) in a gender-sensitive, accurate, and constructive manner.

FGM is internationally recognized as a gross human rights violation, a form of violence against women and girls, and a manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination.

In the past, FGM was viewed as a private and cultural practice that was taboo to discuss openly. Today, the importance of eliminating FGM is publicly highlighted by the United Nations within Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which outlines a blueprint for achieving gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls. Target 5.3 under this goal requires all 193 countries that signed onto the SDGs – including Kenya – to take action to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” by 2030.

FGM in Kenya occurs across various ethnic groups and religions, although to differing degrees, and prevalence rates vary considerably between regions. According to UNICEF, at least four million women and girls have undergone the practice, including 21 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49. However, in a 2019 national address on the issue, President Kenyatta put the figure at approximately 9.3 million girls and women who have undergone FGM in Kenya.

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2011) criminalizes all forms of FGM in Kenya. Since its introduction, the overall rate of FGM has steadily declined in the country. 

The role of the media is pivotal in increasing public understanding about social issues, shaping public discourse, and influencing policy-makers’ decisions. As such, media professionals – including journalists, editors, editors-in-chief, and photographers – all have a significant part to play in helping end FGM in Kenya by shining a public spotlight and framing it as a human rights and child abuse that needs to be urgently addressed.

FGM is a complex and emotive concern that can be challenging to report on. It requires a nuanced understanding of how best to educate and engage audiences, protect survivors and those at risk, and foster positive social change.

This toolkit was developed by international women’s rights organization Equality Now in collaboration with the Anti-FGM Board, Kenya, and the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), to support media professionals in their efforts to report on FGM.

Please feel free to share, reference, and reproduce the content.