ROME — The UN children's agency on Thursday proposed a new approach for ending female genital mutilation, saying campaigns should work with communities instead of fighting local traditions.
"One of the key factors that motivate parents' decision to have their girls cut -- 'to do what is best for their daughters' -- may also spur a decision to stop the practice," the report by an Italy-based UNICEF institute said.
But this can happen only "once social norms evolve and social expectations change," said the report by the Innocenti institute, which analysed community-based initiatives in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal and Sudan.
Campaigns in these five countries included important members of local communities, such as religious leaders, as well as using more traditional methods through the local media and working with national governments.
"Rather than ?fighting? against local culture and presenting traditional behaviours as negative, effective programmes propose alternative mechanisms to signal adherence to shared community values," the report said.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting, is an initiation procedure involving the partial or total removal of the clitoris of young girls and is widely practiced in North Africa and the Middle East.
It can lead to infections and other serious long term health problems.
The report said that in communities "where FGM/C is seen as the only possible way to act, one of the first steps towards abandonment of FGM/C is to promote awareness of the alternative of not cutting."
In Senegal, for instance, the report pointed out that there is now a law banning female genital mutilation but its implementation has been delayed by two years in order to allow times for community meetings on the issue.
The report said one alternative to the initiation ritual could be "public declarations for the abandonment of the practice" since families will only end the practice if they know that other families will do the same.
"In Egypt, Ethiopia and Northern Sudan, FGM/C has been practised by the majority of the population and national prevalence rates are high," it said.
"In Kenya and Senegal, prevalence rates remain high only among certain population groups," it added.
The report said that ending practices such as FGM that have been around for centuries is "a complex process that takes time."