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Anti-FGM Campaigner Fatou Baldeh To Receive 2024 Women's Rights Award

GENEVA, May 7, 2024

A cross-regional coalition of 25 human rights organizations announced today that Gambian women’s rights activist Fatou Baldeh will be honored with the Geneva Summit Women's Rights Award. She campaigns to end female genital mutilation, a practice that she survived and now dedicates herself to ending.

Baldeh will receive the prestigious prize on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, at the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. The ceremony will be attended by UN ambassadors, former political prisoners, human rights activists, and journalists from around the world.

Baldeh was chosen for her extraordinary leadership and courage in fighting for the human dignity of women and girls in The Gambia,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Human Rights Foundation, Cultura Democratica, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and more than 20 other human rights groups.

“An estimated 230 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilations. FGM injures girls' bodies, perpetuates life-long physical and psychological harm, and endangers their lives,” said Neuer.

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“More and more girls are now being subjected to this practice at younger ages, many before their fifth birthday. The international community is not doing enough.

“That is why we need to recognize and strengthen the vital work of Fatou Baldeh, who has directly impacted policy decisions and actions to uphold the dignity and human rights of African women and girls, speaking out for the most marginalized in society. Through her organization, Women in Liberation and Leadership, Ms. Baldeh persistently combats female genital mutilation—in a country where 75% of women have been its victims—making her an inspiring role model for women and girls around the world,” said Neuer.

Fatou Baldeh: “Being chosen for this award means a lot to me”

"Being chosen for this award means a lot to me, particularly at this time when there is a threat to overturn the 2015 FGM ban in The Gambia, endangering the rights and safety of women and girls,” said Fatou Baldeh.

"My hope is that with this international award, the global audience will understand the threat to women’s rights in The Gambia and the potential impact that the repeal can have on the global efforts to end FGM by 2030 as anticipated by the UN Sustainable Development Goals."

In recognition of Baldeh's work with migrant communities and women who have experienced abuse in the UK, Queen Elizabeth II honored Baldeh in 2020 by making her a Member of the Order of the British Empire. In 2024, she received the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award.

Previous laureates of the Women’s Rights Award include Iranian women's rights activist Shima Babaei, Congolese activist Julienne Lusenge, who combats rape as a weapon of war, Pakistani campaigner Gulalai Ismail, who trains women in human rights leadership, and Zarifa Ghafari, the youngest female Afghan mayor and a survivor of three Taliban assassination attempts.

About the Geneva Summit

Baldeh will join fellow champions of human rights from around the world at this year's Geneva Summit for Human Rights, including dissidents, activists, victims and relatives of political prisoners from Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, and Russia, who will testify on abuses in their countries.

“The Geneva Summit of Human Rights serves as a global hub for dissidents, offering a unique opportunity to hear first-hand from frontline defenders of human rights, many of whom have endured brutal arrest, incarceration and torture,” said Neuer.

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