Men Against FGM/C: A Father’s Stand on Ending FGM/C


Posted:  June 14. 2024

by Dean Howell

With Father’s Day fast approaching, I was asked if I wanted to blog about my experience with FGM/C activism from a man’s perspective.  This practice has its roots in gender inequality and the patriarchy, so I’ve always felt that characterizing it only as a “women’s issue” is simply inaccurate.  Harm to anyone is a cause for everyone, and men need to be both allies and advocates in the effort to eradicate FGM/C from the planet.

Some quick background:  I’m a husband, a father of 2 boys, a sales executive, and a volunteer for The U.S. FGM/C Network.  Regarding the latter, I have no family, cultural or community ties to FGM/C, and I don’t know anyone personally who is an FGM/C survivor or who is currently at risk. So how did I get involved with the effort to end this harmful practice?

To me, this is about basic human rights.  I had read an article about FGM/C years ago, and the impact it had on me is almost indescribable.  I had no idea such a thing existed.  As a father, the most troubling aspect was that – while girls and women of all ages are at risk – it is commonly performed on girls younger than the age of 15.

This is where men can have the most immediate impact when it comes to FGM/C.  As the decision-makers in their families, fathers can draw the line and simply say “no.” Many fathers of survivors and those at risk do oppose the practice, but feel intense pressure from their communities and are reluctant to break with the social norms.  It is seen as more beneficial for everyone if they go along with tradition.  They also often defer to mothers and grandmothers when it comes to FGM/C, perceiving it to be more a woman’s area of responsibility.

It goes without saying that these kinds of attitudes and perceptions need to change for progress to accelerate.  While some fathers do put their daughter’s health first and intervene, the goal of ending FGM/C will come about much sooner if more can join them, to the point where the mindset of the entire community shifts.  Men outside of the family can also help bring about this shift by abandoning their refusal to marry an uncut woman, a view that is generally prevalent in communities where FGM/C is practiced.

We’re at a time in history where many of us are asking:  What kind of world do we want to live in?  What do we want our future to look like?  How can we effect change to create the world and the future we all want to see?

While I have only been volunteering with The Network for a short time, it is some of the most fulfilling work I have done in my life.  From one perspective, my contribution may seem a very small part of the worldwide effort, but volunteerism at any level evokes the Dalai Lama’s famous quote:  

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”

We all have a part to play in ending FGM/C.  Everyone benefits from a world where girls and women are safe, where human rights are respected, and where equality is celebrated.


Dean Howell is an IT sales executive, a graduate of Syracuse University, and a proud dad & husband.  He loves biking, the ocean, and is an avid fan of the Bills, Knicks and Yankees.