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Ihsan was questioning whether subjecting her youngest daughter to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was the right decision. She broached the topic with her husband Saleh but he refused to discuss it.

Saleh was under a lot of pressure from his community in Assiut, and was concerned him and his family would be shunned if they did not follow tradition.

Ihsan however did not give up.

Ihsan and Saleh are the parents of three daughters and had already cut the two older girls.

“We inherited this tradition, so I did it to my daughters as instructed by my mother and my mother-in-law,” Ihsan said.

Having attended several awareness-raising sessions under the Champions of Change program, Ihsan was armed with the knowledge and skills to sway her husband’s opinion.

The UNFPA-supported Champions of Change program was developed by Plan International, and seeks to combat gender inequalities and harmful practices through empowering girls and engaging boys.

Ihsan gained insight into her role as a woman in her community, and how important it is to speak her mind. She also attended trainings on communication skills, and problem solving, but it was the sessions that dispelled misconceptions around FGM and early marriage that really grabbed her attention.

She even enrolled her daughter in the Champions of Change program, eager for her to learn about herself and her body.

She was now filled with conviction that FGM is a harmful practice and recognizes its effect on girls’ physical and mental health.

She convinced her husband to attend an awareness-raising session on FGM that tackled the practice from a religious, medical as well as legal perspective.  

Following the session, Salah started believing that he had been misled by religious misconceptions.

“I subscribed to the belief that FGM was necessary due to false religious teachings,” he said. “This was due to misinterpretation of some of those teachings.”

Saleh began to realize that FGM is rooted in false cultural traditions and beliefs. When he decided to face his community and speak openly about their decision not to cut their daughter he was faced with criticism.

However, this did not stop him and his wife from going as far as speaking out on the need to combat this harmful practice.

Now, Ihsan and Saleh are considered a very influential couple among their community, and have helped spread awareness and dispel misconceptions around FGM.

The Champions of Change program is supported by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on the Elimination of FGM – the largest global program to accelerate the elimination of FGM since 2008.