10 March 2021

Somalia and Somaliland Confront Female Genital Mutilation: Orchid Project's Eye-opening Country Profile Update

Blog by Savannah Grantham for the FGM/C Research Initiative

Orchid Project’s recently published Country Profile Update on female genital mutilation/cutting (‘FGM/C’) in Somalia and Somaliland emphasises how serious a problem the practice of FGM/C is in the region. Its thorough analyses provide information on the frequency, patterns and drivers of FGM/C, as well as current initiatives to stop this harmful traditional practice.


According to the Somali Health and Demographic Survey 2020 (‘SHDS 2020’), FGM/C prevalence among women aged 15 to 49 is an alarming 99.2%, highlighting the critical need for targeted initiatives to address the root causes of this practice and ensure the protection of the rights and wellbeing of women and girls.

The majority of FGM/C cases in the region are reported to be infibulation, the most severe form of cutting and re-sewing, although there appears to be a decline in its prevalence. However, misunderstandings about terminology, including the classification of FGM/C types, contribute to imprecise data and interpretations.

There is very little disparity in regional prevalence evident in the data. For example, in 2006, prevalence stood at 97.9% for the whole region, 98.1% in the North-East Zone of Somalia (Puntland), 99.2% in South/Central Somalia, and 94.4% in Somaliland.

Drivers and Support

Traditional and religious beliefs continue to drive the practice of FGM/C. Support for its continuation stems from cultural norms and misconceptions about religious requirements. Unusually, men play a significant role in perpetuating FGM/C, influencing decision-making processes within households and communities.

Economic status also plays a significant role in the prevalence of FGM/C. Women from lower economic backgrounds are more vulnerable to it, as poverty often serves as a direct driver, both for cutters and for girls whose parents intend them to marry well. Addressing the socioeconomic determinants of FGM/C is crucial for creating sustainable change and empowering communities to abandon harmful traditions.

Another important point the Update emphasises is the age at which FGM/C is performed. To effectively prevent FGM/C and safeguard girls who are at risk, advocates might attempt to alter attitudes and actions linked to FGM/C by addressing cultural practices and beliefs around the age of cutting.

The Media and Education

Radio and social media are among the media channels being used to spread the word about the dangers of FGM/C and to encourage community discussions. It is clear that education through the media is essential for opposing negative norms and enabling people to speak out for change. However, since 92.7% of women in Somalia and Somaliland do not access accessing traditional forms of mass media on a weekly basis, there is a clear need to leverage alternative communication channels to reach a wider audience and promote dialogue. By harnessing the power of new media, while still making use of more traditional media like the radio, advocates can amplify their efforts to end FGM/C and drive social change.

Another crucial element of the fight against FGM/C is school education, as lower rates of the practice are correlated with higher levels of education. The Update emphasises how important it is to support girls’ education, in particular, to combat problematic social norms and advance gender equality. Stakeholders can empower people to make informed decisions and promote the cessation of FGM/C by placing a high priority on education.

In summary, the complex interaction of factors that contribute to FGM/C demands a high level of sustained dedication by various stakeholders, including local communities, governments and civil society. Somalia and Somaliland may move closer to the total eradication of FGM/C and protect the rights and welfare of women and girls in the region by concentrating on increasing awareness, pushing for change and passing relevant legislation.

To access the full Country Profile Update on FGM/C in Somalia and Somaliland and explore its statistics and insights, please visit [here].