Hello. Welcome to today’s edition of the @UNICEF_Nigeria supported weekly tweet conference designed to #endcuttinggirls

The tweet conference is part of a multidisciplinary approach to eliminate the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in this generation in line with the global goals #endcuttinggirls

I am @AATSarumi and I will be joined by @OkorieVictoria4 to discuss Dialogue and Consensus-Building: Key Strategies in Eliminating FGM #endcuttinggirls.

The tweet conference will last for 2 hours where we will discuss the above topic as much as time will allow us and there will be room for questions.  #endcuttinggirls

In 1997, World Health Organisation (WHO) defined Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons #endcuttinggirls.

The process is classified into four (4) types. They are (i). Clitoridectomy, (ii) Excision, (iii) Infibulation and (iv) Unclassified. For more on types, myths, facts and what we’re doing to #endcuttinggirls, visit www.endcuttinggirls.org

W.H.O puts the number of girls and women who have undergone one form of FGM or more at 200 Million and another 2 million at annual risk of undergoing the process. This staggering number is not only a cause for concern but a call to action #endcuttinggirls.

It is then advantageous that efforts are synergised, strategies reviewed and approaches redefined to not only prevent new incidences but to also provide succour to survivors. #endcuttinggirls

All actions taken to eliminate FGM will also be in line with set objectives of the United Nations Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change to ensure the outcomes are as envisaged #endcuttinggirls

To ensure that all approaches adopted do not set the people against one another, there’s a need for an all-encompassing strategy to eliminate female genital mutilation #endcuttinggirls

Identification and eventual adoption of such strategy will be a product of a no-holds-barred discussion that will break mythical barriers around the practice #endcuttinggirls

To thoroughly deal with a problem at hand, all parts contributing to the cause must be identified and responded to accordingly; and for FGM, the culture of silence has been its greatest trick #endcuttinggirls

Culture of silence refers to the behavior of a selected group of people by unspoken rules to not mention, acknowledge enough to discuss a subject, for either positive reasons, or in avoidance of negative outcomes #endcuttinggirls

The Culture of Silence is the unseen gag, the invisible mask and the untold tales surrounding acts like FGM in our society. It’s usually formed on norms, cultural beliefs and myths to ward people off an issue. #endcuttinggirls

As such, the issue is left unattended in public and becomes accepted as a part of the people’s culture, grows steadily and becomes a sin to ask questions about it. #endcuttinggirls

To break such culture and set the people affected by such free, there is a need for a response and answer that does not negate the general goal of the campaign as suggested in Tweet number 10 #endcuttinggirls

Our topic today captures two important activities that are essential tools that will help us coast to victory in the campaign to eliminate FGM #endcuttinggirls.

Dialogue, which can be “community dialogue” or “intergenerational dialogue”, is a general yet specific tool in tackling social norms and getting the people to speak above whispers on issues that concern them #endcuttinggirls

Community Dialogue refers to the “interactive participatory communication process of sharing information, listening to deepen understanding and reaching solutions on a particular issue by a group of people sharing the same attitudes, traditions, laws and interests” #endcuttinggirls

Dialogue will not only bring together community leaders and members, it will also bring peers and the various age groups in a target audience to share experiences as they have witnessed it #endcuttinggirls

This will give a broader spectrum to discuss the issues at hand with many unnoticed parts coming to fore. It breaks the culture of silence and kick-starts a chain of conversation to #endcuttinggirls

Note that the main objective of community dialogue is to generate response from communities and individuals that result into commitment to addressing the identified problems (issues)/gaps in a participatory manner. #endcuttinggirls

The prevailing challenge is the strategies to communicate to them and make them commit to ending FGM. #endcuttinggirls

Dialogue has helped community members in the UNFPA/UNICEF five focus states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo) to take concrete steps towards ending FGM in Nigeria. #endcuttinggirls

There have been limitations and barriers to dialogue and consensus building. This has affected the elimination of this harmful practice. #endcuttinggirls

  1. We will discuss these barriers by stating the various strategies to use in order to enhance the acceptance and active participation in dialogue and consensus building. #endcuttinggirls.

FIRSTLY, on the part of some stakeholders, they necessary don’t understand the meaning of ‘dialogue and what it requires’. #endcuttinggirls.

A working definition could simply be put as “the kind of honest talk that makes agreement possible”. Related to that is the tendency of some participants to resort to strategies, at least early in a collaborative process, that try to get results without the need for dialogue. #endcuttinggirls.

In a collaborative setting, tools that rely on common mindset such as advocacy, technical expertise and political influence are brilliantly effective in other contexts but are counterproductive in a collaborative setting. #endcuttinggirls.

It takes a while to grasp fully the methods of consensus building and dialogue. Some degree of trust is essential, but many persons do not acknowledge that. #endcuttinggirls

After a due stakeholder mapping, all stakeholders must be duly informed on the need to understand the essence of dialogue and consensus building. #endcuttinggirls

The community may suspect or assume that hidden agendas will try to manipulate the group toward a predetermined outcome. But this must be done with due diligence and adequate information. #endcuttinggirls

We must also note that, it can take quite a while before everyone around the community gets comfortable dropping the familiar tactics and beginning the dialogue that can lead to consensus agreement. #endcuttinggirls

SECONDLY, the barrier of right advocates without hidden agenda. Skillful advocates have an arsenal of argument, rhetoric, studies and vivid anecdotes to win people over to their side and refute opposing points of view. #endcuttinggirls.

This implies that for FGM abandonment to work out effectively, we must all drop our personal gains in dialogues and consensus building at community levels. #endcuttinggirls

Positions, right and equality at all sides should be greatly dealt with and let the focus be to EndFGM. When community leaders or other stakeholder wait for recognitions or right address pattern, consensus building will slack. #endcuttinggirls

THIRDLY, lack of technical expertise has also stood as a barrier to ENDFGM. Stakeholders rely on dat. #endcuttinggirls

This makes communication to focus on the technical expert, not on the other stakeholders. #endcuttinggirls

Stakeholders have to gain a common understanding of technical dimensions of the issues. #endcuttinggirls

But if the expectation is that this will solve the problem facing the group and set the parameters of policy, there is no incentive to get into collaborative dialogue. #endcuttinggirls

Effective technical discussions can fully involve only a subset of stakeholders and community members with the necessary training and this can be passed on to others. #endcuttinggirls

LASTLY on the barriers is the mindset of putting political influence at the forefront of a community dialogue which entails that the outcome is entirely dependent on them. #endcuttinggirls

In most cases, most powerful stakeholders try to circumvent the process by seeking solutions in political forums such as a legislature. #endcuttinggirls

This has stood as a barrier as the people (stakeholders and community leaders) desire to be fully aware before arriving at a consensus. #endcuttinggirls

For FGM abandonment to be a reality, the following strategies must be put in place #endcuttinggirls.

We must ensure that all stakeholders get familiar with the processes involved for a successful dialogue and consensus building. #endcuttinggirls

We must ensure that at all times the aspect of technical data is handled rightly, such that stakeholders and community leaders have facts and figures. #endcuttinggirls

We must also ensure that stakeholders mapping is rightly done and in time. #endcuttinggirls

We must make sure that skilled advocates are not biased about operations and processes around FGM. #endcuttinggirls

Political influencers are important in the campaign against FGM but we must be careful not to let the entire decisions be dependent on them making other persons insignificant. #endcuttinggirls

Ensure that even the person with the least position in the community is accorded due respect. This makes everyone feel wanted in the campaign to EndFGM.

At this point I will stop for questions to come through. Thank you having @AATSarumi and I @OkorieVictoria4 in the discussion on Dialogue and Consensus-Building: Key Strategies in Eliminating FGM #endcuttinggirls

Thank you all for reading our tweets #endcuttinggirls @endcuttinggirls

To learn more about the EndCuttingGirls Social Media Campaign, and other discussions around FGM, follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls #endcuttinggirls