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‘A cut woman is the pride of all her relatives’: a situation analysis of female genital mutilation in Mali

Research reports

Written by Carmen Leon-Himmelstine, Heiner Salomon, Aisse Diarra, Emma Samman

Image credit:Bogolan is a traditional fabric from Mali. Bogolan means "made with earth" and is a dyeing technique that originated in Mali in the 12th century. Credit: Leonova Elena / Shutterstock.com

[En français]

Reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a major global challenge. While awareness of the physical and mental health consequences of FGM/C has increased, the practice persists, for reasons that vary between regions and over time. Understanding context, including the role of decision-makers and other influencers, as well as the factors that drive or hinder FGM/C is key to designing effective interventions to eliminate the practice.

This study offers a situation analysis of FGM/C in Mali, where 89% of females aged 15 to 49 years old have undergone FGM/C and where support for the practice is widespread. It describes trends in FGM/C in Mali and the factors that lead FGM/C to persist or to be abandoned focusing on six study sites of interventions run by the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative and UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme. The study also identifies and explores the attitudes and role of the main stakeholders who decide upon and/or shape attitudes towards the practice, and examines programming strategies and approaches to challenging FGM/C in the study sites.

This study uses two methodologies: i) a quantitative analysis illustrating trends in Demographic Health Survey (DHS) data from 2001 onward, coupled with multivariate analysis of the 2018 microdata; and ii) a qualitative analysis based on interactions with 92 respondents across the six study sites. As well as capturing the perspectives of adolescent girls and boys, the data collection sought to explore the views of other key stakeholders such as elders, parents, religious and community leaders, traditional circumcisers and health providers.

Findings from this report have assisted the next stage of this work programme which involved designing behavioural change tools to shift social norms towards abandoning FGM/C and child marriage. They also contributed to the design and development of a baseline survey aiming to measure social norms related to FGM/C and child marriage across the intervention sites.

This situation analysis was developed by ODI in partnership with Plan International Mali and with financial support from the Spotlight Initiative through UNICEF Mali.