Good evening everyone, on behalf of my Cohost @rayvocate and I (@dareadaramoye) I welcome you to today’s conference. Thank you for joining us…

Our topic for today is: Increasing the use of data and evidence to improve policies and programmes targeting FGM/C elimination.

We shall be answering your questions from 6:45pm and we hope you will have a very educative evening today.

An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). FGM/C is practiced in over 30 nations, predominantly in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East..

Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

FGM/C is classified into four types. Type I and Type II are known as clitoridectomy and excision.

Type III, the most severe form called infibulation, entails removing part or all of the external genitalia and narrowing of the vaginal orifice by re-approximating the labia minora and/or labia majora, leaving a small hole for urination and menses.

Type IV,  includes nicking, piercing, scraping, or burning of the genitalia. It also includes “Massage”, which involves the application of petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions, or hot water to the clitoris and pushing it back into the body or making it fall off (common in the Southeast Nigeria, esp. Imo State).

Girls and women who have undergone FGM/C can suffer from numerous health complications including: hemorrhage, infection, sepsis, infertility, dysmenorrhoea, dyspareunia, keloids, cysts/abscesses and difficult vaginal deliveries.

Some reasons why this practice prevails include rite of passage, preserving virginity, hygiene, ensuring marriageability, improving fertility, and religious beliefs.

Numerous grassroots, international, governmental and nongovernmental organizations have been working on strategies to stop FGM/C.

UNFPA & UNICEF have over the past years refocused attention on harmful traditional practices, with specific reference to FGM/C, using the human rights based programming approach and other culturally sensitive approaches.

UNFPA and UNICEF address the issue of FGM/C not only because of its harmful impact on the reproductive and sexual health of women, but also because of its violation of women and girls’ fundamental human rights.

Knowledge is power, and there’s nothing more powerful than data and evidence of good practices to help Policy Makers inform policies and programmes decisions with measurable results for continuous improvement on FGM/C abandonment.

“… without information, things are done arbitrarily and one becomes unsure of whether a policy or program will fail or succeed. If we allow our policies to be guided by empirical facts and data, there will be a noticeable change in the impact of what we do.”

Evidence from impact evaluations can help policymakers identify and select the programs that are most effective at achieving policy goals.

Many people mistakenly believe that the terms “data” and “evidence” are interchangeable, and these words have the same meaning.

Data is factual information such as numbers, percentages, and statistics.

Evidence is data that is relevant and furnishes proof that supports a conclusion.

The power of data increases when they are used to create evidence to improve policies and programmes targeting FGM/C elimination.

At country level, the major activity in terms of data collection and analysis has been baseline studies to launch phase two. While the activities are ongoing, initial information from countries is being received and synthesized to ensure quality information is being generated.

Nigeria completed its first year of implementation in 2014, and a situational assessment on FGM/C and a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices survey were initiated in five high prevalence states and one low prevalence state.

150 research assistants were recruited to collect data on FGM/C at the community level. Community support for the study was secured through advocacy efforts and consultative dialogues with 280 traditional, community and religious leaders, 120 female traditional birth attendants and 200 health care providers.

This was crucial in order to facilitate access to the communities for the researchers. The findings of the baseline process was critical to setting a strong foundation for measuring the Joint Programme’s results in the country in the coming years.

Policymakers and advocates agree that using evidence to inform decisions is essential for good policymaking and program design, given that limited resources require decision-makers to allocate budgets effectively.

In many countries, the systematic collection and analysis of data on FGM/C is quite recent. Over the last two decades, reliable data on FGM/C have been generated through two major household surveys: Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Data derived from both of these sources provide accurate estimates of FGM/C, which can be used to guide the strategic allocation of resources and the planning of interventions, and to monitor progress towards the elimination of the practice.

Increased Data and evidence use can be a powerful tool for elimination of Female Genital Mutilation/cutting.

Through the proper use of data, Policy Makers, advocates and other stakeholders can:

Narrow achievement gaps.
Data provides quantifiable evidence, taking the emotion and guesswork out of what can be tough decisions regarding FGM/C elimination.

Improve Programme quality.

Policymakers can employ data-driven decision making systems to highlight specific and targeted professional development needs of district staff and make better staff development investments.

For example, an analysis of programme achievement data can help Policy makers understand which strategies are creating the best results and see where additional training might be needed.

Find the root causes of problems.

Data helps Policy Makers and Programmme designers see things they might not otherwise see. When data is examined from all angles, it may highlight a programme that, although popular, is not helping the elimination of FGM/C.

Data can help drill down to the root causes of a problem, allowing PolicyMakers and Stakeholders involved to solve the whole problem and not just the symptom.

This gives programme implementers great insight into interventions, allowing them to continue to promote effective programs and to modify or discontinue programs that are not working.

Share best practices.

Data can provide useful information within and across the States and LGAs in such a way that Policy makers can quickly use to determine best practices.

Communicate more effectively with key stakeholders.

Instead of responding defensively to critics or the media, data can arm administrators with facts and figures that tell a more complete story and help key audiences understand the root causes of the challenges faced by their policies and programmes.

Motivate Programme implementers and increase Policy Makers involvement.

By analyzing data and showing its evidences, PolicyMakers can identify a policy’s weakness in a particular programme area

How Advocacy Groups Used Data to Generate Evidence Based Advocacy to Formulate & Change Laws/Policies 

Experience shows that NGOs have typically been the key actors in designing and implementing successful programmes (UNICEF, 2006).

In different countries, the combination of a health-based approach and new behavioral change strategies, such as peer education, use of positive deviants and community conversation, were used to build the capacity of a targeted population to combat FGM/C.

Evaluation and assessment of the impact of the different campaign approaches to abandon FGM/C has revealed that all approaches have some element of success in either reducing the prevalence or changing the behavior or knowledge of communities about FGM/C.

The traditional medicalization approach has been the least effective while the alternative right of passage is more effective but the integrated approach is the most effective one so far.

Campaigns against FGM/C take long to yield results and has to be part of a larger process of social change.

Also studies showed that change will not necessarily happen everywhere and where it does happen, it may bring some resistance and setbacks with it.

Therefore the existence of sustainable developmental programs and conducive environment through legal frameworks and policies may make communities and other stakeholders motivated to continue in the campaign for the abolishment of the practice beyond the life spans of mainstream projects and programs and to ensure they do not revert to their original practice.

Statistics produced from the main national surveys on FGM/C as well as some of the medical studies have been used widely by these groups in the following formats:

  •  As key information to draw the attention of policy makers on the magnitude of the practice especially in high prevalence states.
  • To identify and produce evidence on who should be targeted in campaigns, and data from the SMS, 1999 has contributed to the national focus on males and their involvement in the campaign.
  • Perceptions about why FGM/C practice should continue resulted in inclusion of key government officials and religious leaders in the campaign.
  • People perform the practice was a key variable that have mobilized the medical legislators into drafting the famous Medical Council Statement which paved the way for the FMOH Strategy of 2001.
  • Health impact of FGM/C was used to convince key decision makers on importance of drafting strategies and inclusion in policies such as the National Population Policy of 2001.