CAIRO: Four in five girls still undergo female genital mutilation, according to a study conducted by the Population Council and the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) exploring Egypt’s young population.
The study surveyed over 15,000 people nationwide aged 10-29, describing them as “a national priority and the future investment of the country.
It covered topics of health, education, employment, marriage and social engagement.
One of the survey’s key findings were related to reproductive health and sexuality. It revealed that 82 percent of girls aged 10-29 are circumcised. However, FGM is more widespread among the 22-29 age bracket at 93 percent, as opposed to only 66 percent among those aged 10-14.
The study also said that parents do not discuss reproductive health and sexual issues with their children, especially male children. More than 73 percent of those surveyed noted that they never talked to their families about pubertal changes.
Wealth levels were found to be a major factor in childbearing: Across different age groups, surveyed women in the lowest wealth quintiles had the most children.
A key finding in the topic of education is that women make up 82 percent of those who never enrolled in school – 80 percent of which inhabit rural areas.
The survey also disclosed interesting findings regarding marriage. Approximately 3 percent of females between ages 15 to 17 are married, which is illegal under the new child law that set the marriage age at 18.
Early marriage is mainly a rural phenomenon with 70 percent of women and 93 percent of men married at the age between 15-21 are in rural areas. Early marriage is also inversely correlated with wealth with none of the cases surveyed that are married in this age group come from the highest wealth quintile.
“This is a valuable survey which studies an important segment of the population covering both social and economic factors of this age group, said Minister of Family and Population Moshira Khattab at a conference presenting the survey.
“We covered all the governorates, usually in other studies some governorates, especially those on the borders, are left out, said Mohamed Ramadan, executive manager at the Information and Decision Support Center.
He said that they “over-sampled in case some families or young people were not responsive.
“The survey included around 11,372 families and interviews were successfully conducted with approximately 15,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 29 who represent males and females in rural, urban and slum areas, explained Ramadan.
“Previously, the youth were not a priority of the state but now with the problem of unemployment they have been brought into attention, Khattab said.
The preliminary results of the study were presented at the conference, they have also been published and are available to the public.
“The survey presents the thoughts, problems and inspirations of this age group, said Chairman of the IDSC, Maged Osman.
“There has been an interest from the state in this matter, which is reflected in the role of the Ministry of Family and Population, through the survey we present them with vital information in order to help the youth change from being inactive to active in their society, he explained.
The survey was originally initiated by the Population Council supported by the technical and financial contribution of multilateral organizations, including UN agencies: UNICEF, UNDP, UNIFEM, UNFPA; non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as the Ford Foundation, World Bank, Sida, and bilateral donors such as the Canadian International Development Agency and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
“This is a follow-up of the ‘Adolescence and Social Change in Egypt Survey,’ which was done in 1997 but with a wide age group and more topics covered, said Ghada Barsoum, from the Population Council, who is the principal investigator of the survey.
Khattab said the results of the survey are “valid and important.
For example, the survey outlined the affect geographic locations have on the youth. “It’s true a child growing up in Cairo has more services than a child growing up in Upper Egypt, she said.
She also supported the findings on FGM – the study showed that the rates have decreased – and the findings on gender discrimination, education and early marriage.
However regarding health, while the study says that obesity is the biggest problem, Khattab believes it is malnutrition.
The study also showed that disabilities among the poorer classes are much greater than the upper classes and illiteracy rates among females are greater than among males.
“The recommendations made by the team at the end of the survey need to be studied, noted Khattab.
“We want to see a bigger role of participation by youth, whether at their high schools or universities, and an enthusiasm to search for knowledge, concluded Khattab adding that “No one can solve the youth’s problems like the youth themselves.