UN Women in Africa has led the effort to engage with cultural and traditional community leaders in ending harmful practices impacting women and girls. Evidence-based engagement proved that working with community leaders is essential for effectively changing social norms.
Traditional leaders have been catalysts for change against child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) through being influencers for dropping some customary and traditional laws and practices and by engaging with their communities to end them.
At least one in three young women in Africa are married before they turn 18 (UNICEF,2006). Although there are signs of small progress in changing attitudes toward FGM, the practice remains a major problem across many countries on the continent. About 200 million girls and women have been subjected to the practice (UNICEF,2006).
Traditional leaders across Africa are playing significant roles as influencers and custodians of cultural practices within communities. As attention grows to the slow progress on ending Gender-Based Violence, including early child marriage (ECM) and FGM, traditional leaders have a critical role in shifting deep-rooted cultural beliefs that perpetuate harmful practices.