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Using sport to break the silence


Using sport to break the silence

Women Win spotlights the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation (cutting) and how the strategy of using sport can play a powerful role in shifting cultural practices.

The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation was on 6 February 2013. Female genital mutilation (FGM), practiced in more than 30 nations around the world, is regarded internationally as a violation of human rights and an entrenched form of gender-based violence (GBV). Over 140 million girls and women around the world suffer from the deep, lasting physical and emotional scars left by this invasive ritual.

Women Win believes in the transformative power of sport to equip girls and young women with the ability to exercise their rights, raise their voices and begin to reconstruct social paradigms. Our partners in the field, stretching from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia, both sensitise us to the grave realities of FGM and educate us on how they have used sport to support girls and create cultural shifts in the communities in which they work. 

Initiatives in East Africa

In northern Kenya, the Horn of African Development Initiative (HODI) takes a proactive stance against FGM and leverages the safe sharing space and tight-knit bonds of girls’ football teams to openly discuss the ritual, a topic otherwise repressed in taboo. Executive Director Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan, an FGM survivor, says breaking the silence is ‘a big first step’ toward preventing the cut. Although she works in a community where 100 percent of girls are cut, she convenes girls through football to offer support to heal and an open platform to question.

In Ethiopia, FGM is often associated communally with positive attributes such as becoming a woman and gaining respect. Working closely with communities, KMG, a Women Win partner, empowers and celebrates ‘uncut girls,’ including hosting sports tournaments in conjunction with a massive 'uncut celebration,' events attended by thousands in rural areas. The aim is to put a positive emphasis on resistance to the practice at every level of the community. Beyond involving girls, KMG uses the power of sport to actively engage boys and men (soon-to-be husbands and fathers), in dialogue and celebration. 

A global dialogue on sport and FGM

It is clear that the cessation of a ritual that is so tightly stitched into the socio-culture fabric of communities will not disappear quickly, nor quietly. As girls around the world are being led into an unknown torture, joining more than 130 million who have survived it, we must work diligently to discover and share best practices that employ sport as means to see an end to this violence in our lifetimes.

As we see real examples of how change can happen, Women Win has launched a global dialogue and investigation into the crossover between sport and FGM. We welcome your ideas, experiences and contributions at

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]


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Women Win


Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 23:00