19 February 2013 — The growing involvement of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in a range of issues related to population and development, sexual and reproductive rights, maternal and child health, family planning, early childhood issues, gender equality and female genital mutilation, just to mention a few, has put the agency centre-stage in the achievement of several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the globally-agreed anti-poverty targets.
The importance of population issues was highlighted in 2011 when world population surpassed 7 billion. The media attention and dialogue the milestone fostered generated a wider understanding of the way in which human rights-based policies – such as universal access to reproductive health care and family planning, investment in education, and the empowerment of women and youth – can impact population trends.
In a UN News Centre interview, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, and former Health Minister for Nigeria, spoke on his vision and priorities for the agency; as well what has been accomplished since his appointment began in 2011.
UN News Centre: On February 6 we marked the first ever International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). How is the fight against FGM progressing?
Babatunde Osotimehin: I think that it is progressing extremely well. We have in the last few years been able to work with Member States, communities within those Member States, civil society organizations and professionals to stop the practice in a large number of communities. In 2012 alone, we were able to stop it in around 1,800 communities in the world. And I think that’s very commendable. We also have this relationship with UNICEF, which enables us to do the work on the ground, and as at our end, we’ll continue to push this. The resolution adopted late last year by the General Assembly has elevated this issue to the point that FGM is now a worldwide concern and represents a global concentrated effort to try to stop this odious, totally unnecessary practice in the world.
UN News Centre: What are the major obstacles that hinder your work?
Babatunde Osotimehin: The major obstacles still relate to culture, to the fact that this is something that has been there for a long time which hinders our ability to reach the last mile, to be able to talk to those who are the perpetrators of this. But we are talking to professionals, making sure that we create alternative employment for those who do it, and ensuring that we educate communities about the harm. Because it’s not just an innocuous procedure, it’s something that actually causes harm to women. And I think at the end of the day it also speaks to the status of women in our communities. Why must you violate a woman? Because you think she would be in a better position? That’s for her to decide – that’s not for you to decide. I think we have to keep working on that.
— Read the complete interview on United Nations New Centre.