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Seven-year-old Kenyan girl stands outside her home smiling

Ending female genital mutilation

Support girls. Help put an end to FGM.

There are 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18 worldwide, many of whom face challenges such as child marriage, child poverty, child labour, female genital mutilation and adolescent pregnancies – simply because they’re girls. These unnatural experiences are a violation of their human rights, remove their childhood innocence, and in the worst cases, cause immense pain and sometimes death.

What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?

The female genital mutilation definition, (commonly shortened to FGM and sometimes also known as 'cutting') refers to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, and other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

This painful procedure, which has no health benefits and is recognised as a human rights violation, can cause life-long consequences, including serious pain and bleeding, discomfort or pain while urinating. It can also cause the victim to suffer a higher risk of infections, complications with both sexual pleasure and childbirth, as well as psychological consequences. In some cases, the procedure can even lead to death.

At least 230 million girls in the world today have gone through female genital mutilation. FGM is commonly practiced in 31 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This is widely practiced in Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti, where 90% of girls go through FGM. In the Middle East, FGM is most common in countries like Iraq, Yemen and Indonesia in Asia.

World Vision stands firmly against female genital mutilation and works with communities and partner organisations like UNICEF to end FGM and support the rights of women and girls around the world.

Why FGM happens

The reasons why female genital mutilations happen vary in different areas, and include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities. Most often, girls are cut due to the deeply ingrained belief that their value and dignity are tied to their virginity. This harmful practice is perpetuated under the notion that it will make a girl more suitable for marriage and enable her to perform her role as a female member of the family and community.

FGM is often carried out by traditional practitioners using knives, razors, scissors or even broken glass. Medical professionals also perform FGM, but this does not make it legitimate. The World Health Organisation has condemned this as it remains a clear violation of child rights and can endanger a girl’s health and wellbeing. There is no religious teaching that promotes FGM and some countries have already put in place laws to prohibit FGM. But more work needs to be done so we can see complete abandonment of the practice.

How can I help end FGM?

Education is a key part of preventing FGM. World Vision works with communities around the world, sharing knowledge to promote child protection and prevent sexual violence. We empower girls to know their rights, and work to reduce the circumstances that can lead to female genital mutilation.

Supporters who choose to sponsor a girl help to address these circumstances, ensure that girls can attend school, and enables the work work which empowers communities and faith leaders to protect girls from FGM.

Your sponsorship can help girls gain an education - and it has a ripple effect. The change lasts for generations.

Consequences of FGM

Leah, 14, lives in Kenya. She grew up in a culture that views FGM and child marriage as part of womanhood. She explains, "I used to think that FGM is something good because it is considered a major achievement for girls or women in our culture.”

Since taking part in World Vision’s mentorship programme, Leah learnt about the adverse effects of FGM, including severe bleeding, childbirth complication, increased risk of new-born deaths, spread of infections like HIV, and injury to the female genital organs.

Rescuing girls from harmful cultural practices like FGM

Leah was heartbroken to hear stories of women and girls who were forced into FGM and early marriage. Many of them dropped out of school, which has closed doors to jobs and other opportunities.

Now, she is teaching girls in her community to stand up for their rights. Leah makes time to gather children in her community to embrace education and fight against FGM. She is among the thousands of children and young people empowered to end violence against children, after taking part in World Vision projects.

Support girls like Leah

Child Sponsorship supports the funding of child protection training - it helps children learn about their rights and safety. Can you help protect a girl like Leah by becoming a sponsor today?

Join our annual campaign to support girls

Girls face a multitude of challenges through no fault of their own - like FGM and child marriage. The UN marked 11th October as ‘International Day of the Girl’, to increase the awareness of gender equality and the adversities girls face as a result of humanitarian crisis or the cycle of poverty. While these issues exist all year round, this day marks the prevalence of these issues and provokes political conversations for action.

The International Day of the Girl aims to support young women to be who they want to be. With your help, we can help provide girls with a better education, protection from violence and put a stop to child marriage, FGM and gender inequality.

Meet girls whose lives have changed through Child Sponsorship


  • At least 230 million girls and women alive today living in 31 countries have undergone FGM according to UNICEF data from 2024 - but the total number is unknown and many girls are still undergoing FGM today.

  • Most known instances of female genital mutilation happen in the Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa, and in some countries in the Middle East and Asia. There have also been cases of the children of migrants from these countries being subjected to the practices of FGM, sometimes being taken to those countries for the procedures to be carried out.

  • FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and is considered a form of child abuse. However, it has only been tracked by the NHS since 2015 so it is hard to accurately calculate the number of girls and women who have suffered FGM.

    According to the statistics released by NHS Digital in August 2022, there were 5,620 women and girls who either had a procedure to treat their FGM or were identified as having undergone FGM previously when treated between April 2021 to March 2022.

    As in many European countries, girls whose families originate from a FGM-practicing community are at greater risk of FGM happening to them, particularly during the summer holidays when they may be taken abroad for the procedure. Penalties for anyone in the UK who performs FGM include up to 14 years in prison, and anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM can face up to seven years in prison.

    You can read the UK Government's statement opposing FGM here.

  • Girls across the world face threats including child marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual violence. 

    Violence can take many forms; domestic abuse, trafficking, rape, or harmful practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting.

    Violence against girls crosses culture, ethnicity and economic status. We know that violence does not begin with a conflict or an emergency, but any existing levels of violence against women and girls do increase during these times.

    Violence against girls and women has its roots in gender inequality and discrimination - and negative norms or practices that result from these.

  • We help families to provide for themselves so that they don't feel the need to marry their daughters at a young age or send them out to work.

    We fund the education of girls and help them reach their career goals. Many sponsored girls go on to become teachers, nurses and business owners.

    We challenge social norms and harmful practices, working with faith leaders and communities to acknowledge and act upon gender injustices and negative practices.

    We engage men and boys to make sure they recognise and act upon their obligation to prevent and end violence against girls and women.

    We provide training about children's rights, how to better protect themselves, challenging existing gender imbalances and actively engaging with the wider community.

    We work to fight period poverty, helping to ensure all girls have access to the sanitary products they need to live life as normal while on their period.

    We protect girls in emergencies, creating Child-Friendly Spaces where girls and boys are protected from the risk of violence, have space to play and continue with their education.

    We also work in refugee camps to promote gender equality and reduce the occurrence of violence towards refugee children.

    We provide medical, legal and psychological support as well as life skills, vocational training and other support for girls affected by violence, including former girl soldiers.

  • You can easily sign up to sponsor a girl online or by calling our Supporter Care Team on 01908 84 10 10.

  • World Vision has had a Child Sponsorship programme for more than 70 years, we pair donors with a vulnerable child who needs protection and empowerment.

    Child Sponsorship brings much-needed change to more than just one child — the benefits you help provide extends to each child's family, their community and other children in need. 

    This is because World Vision partners, plans and works alongside local community members to help build healthy, sustainable communities for vulnerable children in the world’s hardest places. Learn more about how Child Sponsorship works.

  • All of World Vision's work begins with listening to communities in need. Community leaders work with us to identify the most vulnerable children and families who will benefit from Child Sponsorship.

  • We work with national governments and other international agencies to identify the regions and communities that are most in need and where the most vulnerable children live. We then meet with community leaders and the wider community to gain a greater understanding of the challenges and the opportunities that exist for them and we develop a long-term plan together, to break the cycle of poverty. Find out more about how Sponsorship helps communities and how Child Sponsorship works.

About Child Sponsorship