The most basic thing that every young person wants is to have control over their own future.
But for millions of girls around the world their fates are sealed at birth. They have no control over their own bodies, no voice in their community and no choice over who to marry and when. For too long we’ve seen girls and women invisible outside the home.
Today is International Day of the Girl, a day when we have a duty to make the issues facing these invisible millions of girls visible.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the most extreme manifestations of this brutal inequality. It is a form of violence against women and girls that can result in a lifetime of physical, psychological and emotional suffering.
Over 130 million women in the world today have had their genitals mutilated and 30 million more girls are at risk over the next decade. Here in the UK there are an estimated 137,000 girls and women living with the consequences of FGM.
These figures are simply unacceptable. I want to see a world free from FGM for the next generation.
That is why the UK has been leading the global campaign to stamp it out. We have made the largest ever donor commitment to ending FGM around the world, investing millions to help countries and communities give up the practice, to support new anti-FGM laws and policies and to help galvanise a worldwide movement to eliminate the practice.
In most countries where FGM takes place the majority of girls and women think it should end so the most effective way to end FGM is to work closely with communities at the grassroots level. That is what our programmes are doing.
And we are determined to end the practice in the UK. We have strengthened the law by introducing new FGM protection orders and a mandatory reporting duty for teachers and health and social care professionals. We have provided resources for frontline professionals and training for Border Force officials so they can identify those at risk of being taken abroad to undergo the practice.
The good news is that there are signs that things are changing for the better. The African-led movement to end the practice, bringing together governments, communities, religious and cultural leaders and ordinary people across the continent, is gaining real momentum. Amazing girls and women across the globe are demanding change.
Thousands of African communities have now held abandonment ceremonies to formally give up the practice. Nigeria took the historic step of banning FGM in May earlier this year. Egypt and Kenya now have laws in place on FGM and are upping their game to make sure these laws lead to more arrests. Somalia, where 98% of women have undergone the practice, has agreed to legislate against FGM and adopt a national action plan to end the practice.
The Girl Summit hosted by the UK and UNICEF last summer was a rallying cry in the fight against child marriage and FGM, and has since inspired independent Girl Summits in Ethiopia, Uganda and Bangladesh to drive action against both these practices.
We must capitalise on this momentum: our generation has an unprecedented opportunity to consign this practice to the history books. We cannot let it go to waste.
I’m clear that Britain will continue to play our part, but we cannot do it alone. One year after the Girl Summit the international community needs to do so much more. Efforts to end FGM are underfunded. We urgently need governments to step up and support the movement within Africa to end FGM.
Last month we saw a historic step in the right direction. At the UN General Assembly 193 nations adopted 17 new Global Goals to eradicate extreme poverty.
Following three years of intense negotiations, the UK successfully pushed for a stand-alone Goal to achieve gender equality by 2030, which critically includes a target to eliminate FGM. The world has now formally agreed: enough is enough.
We now need more nations across the globe, rich and poor, to join us and help consign FGM to the history books.
If we can keep up the momentum and secure the right global support, standing shoulder to shoulder with the communities driving the anti-FGM movement sweeping through Africa, I believe we can end FGM in a generation. That surely is a prize worth having.