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School children at a community assembly in Kenya, promoting child protection and voice in a Mekuno Project supported initiative.

About FGM & Child Marriage


650 million

women worldwide today were married before the age of 18, with an estimated  

12 million more girls being married each year. An additional 120 million girls are at risk of being married by 2030 if current rates continue (UNICEF). 


200 million

women and girls worldwide are living as survivors of female genital mutilation (UNFPA).

An additional 68 million more girls are at risk  of undergoing the practice by 2030 (UNFPA). 



Girls become child brides


Girls undergo FGM

Source: UN, Global Giving

Definitions of FGM & Child Marriage

Female Genital Mutilation involves the complete or partial removal of female sexual organs, serving as a mechanism to control girls' sexual behavior (UNFPA). 

Child marriage is defined as any marriage where at least one of the participants is under 18. All child marriage is internationally considered forced marriage (OHCHR). 

Root Causes of FGM & Child Marriage

FGM and child marriage both result from a combination of extreme poverty, cultural norms, and a lack of education (Kenya Big Dream Project, PLAN International).


Extreme Poverty

Over 60% of FGM survivors belonged to the poorest sector of society.

Over 50% of girls from the poorest families in developing countries were married as children.

(Reproductive Health Journal, Berkeley Economic Review)

Creating skills-programs and entrepreneurship opportunities for girls and their communities, they can lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Cultural Norms

In Kenya, 92% of people want the practice of FGM to stop. 

In 2011, Kenya passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.

(Kenya Demographic and Health Survey)

Utilizing the momentum of community support backed by a legal framework that is focused on protecting girls, changing cultural norms is possible.

Lack of Education

Girls with no education are 3X as likely to be married by 18 compared to those with secondary education.

Over 65% of women who have undergone FGM had no formal education.

 (Girls Not Brides, Reproductive Health Journal)

Prioritizing the importance of educating girls is essential to ensure they have the tools and the opportunities to pursue hope-filled futures of their own design.

These root causes are solvable. By utilizing a holistic approach to tackle them, girls can thrive in futures of their own design.

In addressing these root causes of female genital mutilation and child marriage, girls will have the chance to thrive in hope-filled futures of their own design, and break the cycle of gender-based violence. Education makes all the difference: In Kenya, women with any formal education are more than 8.5X less likely to subject their daughters to FGM (Population Reference Bureau).  

In regions where poverty is severe, FGM and marriage may feel like the only viable option for a girl's family to endure economic hardships or secure any future for their daughter at all, as the bride price may be the only 'secure' source of income (Girls Not Brides). In the areas where we work, FGM is a prerequisite for marriage, resulting in girls undergoing the practice at younger ages as resources become scarcer, and families become more desperate.

Girls celebrating graduation from HerLab, a ten month empowerment initiative supported by Mekuno Project.

Impacts of FGM & Child Marriage

Impacts of FGM on Girls

FGM's impact on mental and physical health is severe, often causing post-traumatic stress, severe pain and bleeding, infection, and death due to hemorrhagic or neurogenic shock. It also causes significant long-term health issues including chronic pain, difficulties in childbirth, and fistula (UNFPA).

Impacts of Child Marriage on Girls

Child marriage is a threat to girls’ health and to their futures, as girls that are married young often become pregnant as teenagers, with nine out of 10 teenage pregnancies occurring within a marriage or union in developing countries (UNFPA). This drastically increases the risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth for these girls, as this is the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (Annals of Global Health).


Girls who are married as children are also more likely to experience domestic violence (UNICEF). In addition, child marriage also leads to high drop out rates as girls miss out on education as they are forced to take on household responsibilities, and are at increased risk for contracting HIV (UNFPA).

Impacts of FGM & Child Marriage on Communities & Economies

Aside from the acute short- and long-term costs to individual women, the generational costs hinder communities, countries, and the world’s potential. Women's contributions to the economy become limited, and the annual associated health costs of FGM amount to $1.4 billion USD globally, with the possibility of this figure increasing by 60% after 2050 if immediate action is not taken (WHO).

In addition to the significant physical and emotional damage child marriage and female genital mutilation cause an individual girl, the resulting impact on her community is also important to consider. Girls who continue their education and are provided with economic opportunities can contribute to the growth of the global economy, and to the resilience of their local communities.

Secondary school girls in Kenya smiling in their uniforms. Mekuno Project funds school fees to allow girls to have uninterrupted educations.
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