The United Nations lately called for new unharmful rites of passage other than female genital mutilation (FGM), the painful and traumatic experience that affects millions of women across the globe.

Speaking in the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon reported that there are more cases of FGM than previously thought. He urges communities and far-flung societies to adapt alternative ways to replace FGM that does not only cause severe pain among those who undergo it, but also increased risk of complications and even death.

At least 200 million girls and women across 30 countries suffered from FGM in the 21st century. The ancient practice, involves the partial or total removal of a girl's external genitalia. Aside from severe pain, other complications might also arise such as sepsis or infection, vaginal prolapse, severe bleeding and painful sexual intercourse.

Though the procedure is illegal in most countries, communities voluntarily perform it because of cultural roots. Most communities see FGM as the transition of a girl to womanhood and often, they need to pass through this phase to become accepted in the society and to be deemed ready to become mothers.

In Kenya, a group of leaders encourage communities to stem female genital mutilation through widespread information dissemination. They perform traditional Maasai songs that are updated with messages about stopping the ancient practice in order to educate the people in the community. They also conduct lectures and meetings to enlighten the people on the adverse effects of FGM.

The groups called Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) in Kenya initiated a new rite that replaced FGM among young girls. The program, ntanira na mugambo (circumcision through words), involves a week-long education program and counseling that kick start the young girls' "coming of age" phase.  

A Stanford University report also shows other alternative ways to stop the violent practice. It suggests that programs are needed to end the practice and one non-profit organization, Tostan, shows success in providing interventions to stop FGM.

The Tostan program facilitates communities in Africa to stop the practice and replace it with an alternative rite of passage. One of their interventions involves a monthly education program to residents about women's health, human rights and hygiene. After the education program, the number of women who thinks FGM is needed decreased by half.

It all boils down to one important factor — education. Education plays an important key in the battle against FGM. A lot of organizations are already going to communities to enlighten villagers about the dangers of the practice and how new alternative ways could replace it. 

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