The Power of the Law as a Driver of Change

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Equality Now works with women and girls around the world to protect and promote their rights. (photo by Millicent Kwambai)

Two women live thousands of miles apart and speak different languages, but they are bound by an experience that changed their lives.

Jenny was five when she underwent female genital mutilation (FGM). She grew up in the American Midwest in a conservative, Christian home. Someone held her down and covered her mouth and eyes with their hands. When she felt the first cut, the pain was unbearable. No other pain in her life has ever compared to it.

Saza was at her niece’s second birthday party when her sister-in-law mentioned that her daughter had been circumcised the previous week. Saza said, “This is wrong – it’s a violation of human rights!” And that is when her older sister told her that she’d been cut as a baby in Singapore. She had no idea it had happened to her.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where it is still practiced. FGM is mostly practiced on young girls between infancy and age 15. Beyond the harrowing and incomprehensible physical and emotional pain, mutilation, and human rights violations associated with the practice, it also brings staggering financial costs. The treatment of health complications due to FGM is estimated to cost health systems close to $1.4 billion (U.S.) per year – a figure that is expected to rise.

While FGM used to be considered a cultural, private practice it is now internationally recognized as a gross human rights violation, a form of violence against women and girls, and a manifestation of gender inequity and discrimination.

Equality Now, founded in 1992, is fighting to end FGM. They are an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of all women and girls around the world. Their campaigns are centered on four program areas – achieving legal equality, ending sexual violence, ending harmful practices like FGM, and ending sexual exploitation – with a cross-cutting focus on the unique needs of adolescent girls. 

A Multifaceted Approach to Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation

Along with their partners, Equality Now works to eradicate FGM by advocating for laws that prohibit the practice and by holding governments accountable when those laws are not upheld. Their successes include:

•In 1996, Equality Now secured asylum for Fauziya Kassindja, a teen fleeing FGM in Togo. This landmark case established FGM as grounds for U.S. asylum, setting a precedent for protecting women worldwide.

•In 2020, the organization was instrumental in advocating for Kentucky to pass comprehensive legislation against FGM, which the state did in 2020.

•In 2021, Equality Now’s lawyers successfully fought to uphold an anti-FGM law in Kenya. The court confirmed the constitutionality of the law, and the country is a leading light in how FGM can be eradicated.

To date, Equality Now has successfully changed 85 laws around the world to the benefit of millions of women and girls.

But as FGM continues to harm women and girls globally, Equality Now will not stop their fight until FGM is no longer a threat to any woman or girl.


Equality Now

Donate now!
(212) 586-0906
Global Director of Development: Amy Hutchinson


Our mission is to achieve legal and systemic change that addresses violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.