Topics of Interest - Health

Women in developing countries face many barriers to basic healthcare and often suffer and even die from preventable causes. Training healthworkers is a key way of remedying this, improving not only the lives of women, but those of their family members as well. 


Quick Facts

  • Girls aged 10-14 are 5 times more likely than women aged 20-24 to die in childbirth [1]
  • Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 in the world’s poorest countries [2]
  • Every day, 1600 women and more than 10 000 newborns die from preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth [3]
  • 140 million women and girls are living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). [4] FGM can cause severe pain and bleeding. Long term effects may include chronic pelvic infections, urinary tract infections, and birth complications. There are no health benefits. [5]

WONDER’S position on FGM

WONDER asserts that Female Genital Mutilation is an assault on the bodily integrity, dignity and human rights of any girl or woman. Sometimes people say that, as it is part of their tradition, communities who practice it should be allowed to continue. This is wrong on several counts because:

  • Young girls and women in these communities do not have any right to choose whether they are mutilated or not
  • If they do 'choose', this should be seen in the context that women in these communities often cannot marry without being 'circumcised' and that, without being married, they have no place in their community and potentially no means of sustaining themselves.
  • The fight against FGM has long been led by women from these communities - often at danger to themselves - such as Waris Dirie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Comfort Momoh.
  • In the UK it was not long ago that we sent small children to work in mills and mines and saw slavery as acceptable. That was our tradition and custom. 
  • The consequences of FGM affect not just women, but their children. Women who have been cut may struggle with simple daily tasks due to ongoing pain, and childbirth can be immensely dangerous. This can affect their ability to make friends, work and care for their own families. 

WONDER also believes that religious leaders have a key role to play in breaking the taboo on discussing FGM and challenging assumptions within communities that FGM is required as part of religious devotion. FGM predates Islam and Christianity but it practiced by both Muslims and Christians as well as those who hold animist beliefs. If religious leaders, spurred on by the communities that they serve, can challenge risky behaviours relating to HIV (read here) we believe that they can also challenge FGM.