Percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have heard about FGM and think the practice should end

Percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have heard about FGM and think the practice should end

Percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have heard about FGM and think the practice should end


This indicator provides the percent of adolescent girls and women aged 15 to 49 who, upon being surveyed, acknowledge their awareness of the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and explicitly express the opinion that the practice should be abolished. It is a measure of both awareness and the rejection of FGM, serving as a dual indicator of societal recognition of the harm caused by FGM and the readiness for cultural change. This indicator is calculated as:

(The number of girls and women surveyed who stated the belief that FGM should end / Total number of girls and women surveyed) x 100

Data Requirements:

  • Age-specific data on knowledge and attitudes towards FGM for females aged 15 to 49.
  • The number of respondents who are aware of FGM.
  • The number of respondents who express opposition to the continuation of FGM practices.

Evaluators may also wish to collect data on whether the woman surveyed is already the mother of a girl and, if yes, the child’s age.

Household surveys such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS)

By quantifying the proportion of girls and women who are informed about FGM and advocate for its discontinuation, the indicator provides critical insights into the prevailing cultural norms and the success of ongoing efforts to alter perceptions surrounding this practice.

Where FGM is widely practiced, it is supported by both men and women, usually without question, and anyone departing from the norm may face condemnation, harassment, and ostracism. But in many societies, older women who have themselves been cut often perpetuate FGM, seeing it as essential to the identity and social standing of women and girls. This may be one reason why women, and more often older women, are more likely to support the practice, and tend to see efforts to combat it as an attack on their identity and culture (UNICEF, Innocenti Research Centre, 2008).

Since women are generally the gatekeepers of the practice, they also play a critical role in its elimination. Advocacy activities trying to create awareness, increase knowledge, and change attitudes are the cornerstone to FGM abandonment programs, particularly among young women, both as potential victims and key change agents. This indicator measures attitudinal shifts among women in the population of interest, which is an important step to behavior change.

The definition and understanding of FGM vary across different cultures, which can lead to inconsistencies in what is reported and how data are interpreted. Self-reported data are subject to potential bias; individuals may alter their responses to align with socially acceptable views or out of fear of legal or social repercussions.

Intention, as a step in the behavior change process, is “necessary but not sufficient” to predict with certainty behavior change. Because FGC is deeply rooted in tradition, even women who have no intention to continue the practice with their own daughters may be unable to act on their resolve because of strong social pressure to conform to the norms of their family or community.

Also, the measurement of this indicator relies on the willingness of women to truthfully admit their intentions, which may or may not be valid. In countries where FGM has been legally banned or in areas where there have been campaigns to reduce the practice, women may be reluctant to admit their intention to have their daughter(s) cut due to a perceived stigma associated with the practice (Bloom, 2008).

In every society in which it is practiced, FGM is a manifestation of gender inequality that is deeply entrenched in social, economic and political structures and represents society’s control over women (UNICEF, Innocenti Research Centre, 2008). Advocacy efforts, particularly among women’s groups, should focus on women’s empowerment. Addressing this through education and debate brings to the fore the human rights of girls and women and the differential treatment of boys and girls with regard to their roles in society in general, and specifically with respect to FGM. This can serve to influence gender relations and thus accelerate progress in abandonment of the practice (WHO et al, 2008).

UNICEF. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Statistics. (n.d.). UNICEF DATA.

UNICEF, Innocenti Research Centre. 2008. Platform for Action Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). The Donors Working Group on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM.  2008.  Eliminating female genital mutilation: an interagency statement.

Bloom S.  “Violence Against Women and Girls: A Compendium of Monitoring and Evaluation Indicators.”  USAID, IGWG, and MEASURE Evaluation, 2008.

Related content

Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health

Social and Behavior Change Communication