TWEET CONFERENCE: Strategies To Abandon FGM/C That Promote The Beneficial Aspects Of Our Culture And Tradition
Good evening, thanks for joining us and welcome to our weekly conference on
It’s been a fruitful and rewarding year and today will be the last episode of weekly tweet conference for the year 2017. @endcuttinggirls
The weekly tweet conference has consistently become one of the key strategies that UNICEF is using to create awareness and build capacities towards the abandonment of FGM.
Today, I will be anchoring the conversation and in partnership with great minds and fellow colleagues in the campaign to @OloriDaco1 & @OluseunEsan17
Today, we will be addressing a very important and strategic topic “Strategies To Abandon Fgmc That Promote The Beneficial Aspects Of Our Culture And Tradition”
We will have the conversation around Introduction and definition of FGM, strategies to abandon FGMC and promoting beneficial aspect of our culture and tradition
I will lead the first part of the conversation for 30 mins and my partners too shall have 30 min while the last 30 min will be for contributions, questions and answers.
FGM/C is Female genital mutilation and Cutting. Prior to the adoption of the term FGM, the practices were referred to as “female circumcision”
FGM/C is all procedures which involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons (WHO,1995).
FGM is carried out using special knives, scissors, razors, or pieces of glass.
On rare occasions sharp stones have been reported to be used (e.g. in eastern Sudan), and cauterization (burning) is practised in some parts of Ethiopia.
Finger nails have been used to pluck out the clitoris of babies in some areas in the Gambia. The instruments may be re-used without being sterilized.
In local communities in Africa, the operation is usually performed by an elderly woman of the village who may also be a traditional birth attendant (TBA)
FGM has being classified into 4 types namely;
Type I (clitoridectomy) is removal of the prepuce with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris.
Type II (Excision) removal of the clitoris with partial or total removal of the labia minora.
Type III (Infibulation) is removal of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening.
Type IV (Unclassified): Includes pricking, piercing, incision or stretching of
the clitoris and/or labia; cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissues; (angurya cuts) or cutting of the vagina (gishiri cuts)
also includes introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina for the purposes of tightening or narrowing it; and all other harmful procedure to the genitalia for non-medical reasons.
There are a variety of reasons/myths associated with FGM which may be: cultural, religious, aesthetic or psycho-sexual reasons. All of which have been found baseless .
For practitioners to analyze and understand the influence of traditions, It is important to understand the community and the way they do things.
There is also need to identify traditions which are prevalent in the community.
Culture and tradition is comprised of values, beliefs, habits, way of life, identities and norms shared by a group of people.
For constructive ideas for how to bring about change we must identify Traditions that are beneficial, harmful or neutral – i.e. neither beneficial nor harmful.
BENEFICIAL traditions include – Breast feeding – Women relieved of work after delivery – Special care and nutritious diet for a newly delivered mother – Puberty rites (without FGM) which prepare adolescents for womanhood
HARMFUL traditions include: Lack of autonomy for women in seeking medical care (decision made only by men) Food taboos for pregnant women & children Early marriage and early child bearing for girls Force feeding babies, Son preference
Others are Priority of access for men and boys in the family to goodfood (mothers and daughters eat last), Tribal marks, Female genital mutilation etc
NEUTRAL traditions include: Wearing talisman, Putting a piece of thread on the babies’ anterior fontanel to cure hiccups, Wearing charms to keep evil spirits away etc
Before I handover to my colleagues here are highlights of some constructive approaches to changing a harmful tradition
more Community mobilization, Awareness-raising in communities, Communities ownership and involvement in abandonment efforts. Education of health workers
Law prohibiting FGM at the community levels and Bye-laws at the LGA level will also help
Here, I’ll like to hand-over to @OloriDaco1 to continue the conversation. Thanks for joining me.
Thank you @rayokpani for that eye-opening session. I will continue on Strategies to abandon FGM/C while promoting the beneficial aspects of our culture and traditions.
Every Community have their cultural norms and tradition which are the tandards upon which the inhabitants of the place are required to follow.
- Not all Cultural and traditional practices are harmful. There are some of these practices that are beneficial to the community just as there are some that are harmful.
- Most of the Cultural and traditional practices were believed at some point to be of benefit but unfortunately majority of them are myths and are harmful.
FGM/C is a typical example of such practices that are harmful. what necessitated FGM/C is the need to prevent promiscuity but unfortunately research has shown recently that FGM/C rather promotes it.
In this case, what one should promote in place of mutilation is good morals and culture of education that possibly teaches abstinence or pre marital sex.
One of the primary strategies in abandoning FGM at all level is to encourage ownership of any decision reached by an individual, a family, a group, or the entire community, to change beliefs regarding FGM.
Others include, integrating education and counselling against FGM in day to day nursing and midwifery practice
identifying and collaborating with influential leaders and other key individuals and groups within the community with who could be used as change agents
establishing small focus groups for discussions. These discussions should be interactive and participatory, allowing the people freely express themselves
Assisting and guiding the discussion to make people to think through the practice of FGM and its effects on health and on human rights
identifying resources within the community that could be used in the prevention programme
suggesting strategies for changing practice, e.g. a culturally acceptable alternative ceremony to mark the rite of passage (Kenya) and teaching women problem solving skills.
Thus, Effective abandonment of FGM/C that promotes the beneficial aspects of culture and tradition requires a process of community discussion, decision and public commitment. .
FGM/C can only be abandoned at scale when abandonment is a coordinated act undertaken by a large enough proportion of the intra-marrying group to ensure that the shift is both effective and stable.
Families will not abandon FGM/C on their own. They will not abandon the practice as long as they believe that others still expect them to cut their daughters.
They will act only when they believe that social expectations have changed, and that most or all others in their community will make the same choice around the same time.
FGM/C abandonment like other social change typically begins with an initial core group of individuals who set in motion a dynamic of change.
As this group becomes ready to abandon the practice, they then seek to convince others to abandon.
The members of this critical mass spread the knowledge of their intention to abandon to others through their social networks – a process known as ‘organized diffusion’
Abandonment may not happen until a large enough portion of the intramarrying community is ready to abandon FGM/C .
After this point, the abandonment would become stable because it would permanently change social expectations. Community members would be expected to not cut their daughters, and would be socially rewarded or sanctioned accordingly.
But for abandonment to occur, it is essential that people are aware of and trust the intention of others to also abandon.
Social expectations will change if people have a guarantee of the commitment of others to abandon. A moment of public affirmation of commitment to abandon the practice is therefore required
- For the alternative possibility of not cutting to become a reality, new attitudes and a willingness to change need to be made explicit and public.
This opens the way for behaviour change and for an actual and stable abandonment.
Families are able to maintain their social status and avoid harm to theirdaughters, while at the same time girls remain eligible for marriage.
The moment of public commitment can be a celebratory and ennobling event. In some areas, communities that have abandoned FGM/C have seen the abandonment process as an opportunity to increase the profile of the village.
Community members often feel pride to publicly declare their choice to abandon FGM/C, rather than shame at not upholding the practice or for having upheld it in the past.
Public commitment serves as a mechanism to coordinate families within intramarrying communities. It also simultaneously activates individual and collective resolve to live up to the abandonment decision.
The public commitment not only helps shift the convention, maintaining the marriageability interest, but also importantly shifts the social norm, so that families who do not cut are socially respected and those who continue are socially sanctioned.
Here I will stop and let @Oluseunesan17 round up the discussion before we take questions. Thank you for joining us, Don’t go yet!
Thank you very much @ OloriDaco1 for shedding more light on the intricacies for abandonment to be effective, far-reaching and sustainable.
As already established, Culture is comprised of values, beliefs and norms shared by a group of people. I will shortly talk about African culture and elements in it that can aid abandonment
The African continent has a rich cultural heritage, with many traditional values.
It’s important to note that according to history FGM/C predates both Christianity and Islam, so it’s more of a cultural practice and not religious. .
FGM has been performed for centuries in parts of Africa, generally as one element of a rite of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage.
the ritual cutting is often embedded in ceremonies in which the girls are feted and showered with presents and their families are honored. A girl’s wishes, in any case, are often irrelevant; it is her family.
In Kenya, the Kpelle tribe conducts the Sande Bush School every few years. This school removes all the young girls from the villages for 6-12 weeks’ training, which includes the secret ritual of FGM. Not all of the girls survive this ordeal.
In Sierra Leone initiation into the Bondo Society as alternative phrasing was deemed most relevant to the practicing culture.
Cultural diversity must be accepted while cultural (harmful ones) change should be promoted
It’s been established that Culture can be harmful, neutral or beneficial. Let’s look at some beneficial cultures which can help promote abandonment
Extended family system is one of the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria for child raising, providing help in critical times and teaching of values.
Adequate care for new mother and baby- ómúgwò is another beneficial culture that can help ensure abandonment everywhere once grandmothers are in
Nigerian delicacies are special; cooking contest can be included in rites of passage ceremonies instead of FGM/C –Good cultures.
Other beneficial cultures are respect our elders, culture frowns at adultery or divorce, extended breastfeeding, art and culture, marriage, music etc
Female Genital Mutilation has been outlawed with strict compliance in Britain, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Africa should not be seen as the dark continent coz of FGM
In Using culture and tradition as an element to drive change, Arica has one of the best transference system for keeping culture intact through generations.
The transference system of culture can be used to transfer the new culture of not cutting through: Community education, Alternative rituals, Drama, folklores, cultural songs, poems, rhymes and music etc
Community Education: Africa has a robust system of community education through wise-sayings, moonlight tales etc. FGM/C abandonment messages can be included in this beneficial traditions
For alternative rituals, an example- Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization carried out a pilot project in the Meru district of Kenya in 1996 to develop an alternative initiation ritual. Some 25 mother-daughter pairs participated in a six-day training session
The session culminated in a coming-of-age celebration planned by the community, excluding circumcision but including gifts and special T-shirts for the initiates, skits, and “books of wisdom” prepared by the parents of each girl.
Drama and folklore are powerful tools that can be used locally during cultural festivals to pass the message of abandonment and propagate the culture of not-cutting.
African culture is rich in cultural songs and poems that are taught to children and remains with them through life, this could be used for FGM abandonment.
Cultural rhymes and music too can be composed to depict the dangers and harms of FGM/C.
States are called upon to explore, through consultations with communities and religious and cultural groups and their leaders, alternatives to FGM/C, in particular where FGM/C is part of a ritual ceremony or rite of passage.
in a recent WHO GA resolution, states are urged to “pursue a comprehensive, culturally sensitive, systematic approach that incorporates a social perspective and is based on human rights and gender-equality principles
use of taboos and totemic affiliation with FGM/C abandonment can also go a long way in sustaining abandonment
in Conclusion, we can attribute strengths of traditional cultural practices to their demonstrated role as a key incentive for conservation, economic affordability, reliability and sustainability, this can be leveraged for abandonment.
Thank You for joining us. It’s time for questions, comments and observations. I also thank @rayokpani And @oloridaco1 for the good foundations and articulate presentations
References and further readings: