Welcome to  the weekly Twitter conference of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change.

I’m Felxfame Enisire @felxfames your Anchor and also have online Olufalade Adesemola @CAPRITOLU my co-anchor

This conference we last from 5pm-7pm Nigerian time and your questions and ontributions based on the topic will attended to from 6:30pm.

Today, our focus is on “Traditional rulers as FGM elimination Champions ”. Before we commence, I will like to give a brief introduction of the current changes in the Joint programme and FGM.

The title of Phase III of the Joint programme is now “​UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change”​. The Joint Programme has decided to use the term “FGM” instead of FGM/C.  

This is to align with the terminology in the UN Resolution 67/146 on “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations, which was reaffirmed in 2014 (69/150) and 2016 (71/168).

The term FGM is also used in the Sustainable Development Goal (5.3).  Consequently, you will be seeing FGM Elimination instead of abandonment in most official documents.  This is also in line with the terms in the UN and SDG Documents.

The term FGM stand for:

F = Female

G = Genital

M = Mutilation

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s  @WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM into 4 types.

Type 1: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy).

Type 2: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision)

Type 3: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation)

Type 4: unclassified: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, pulling, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM.  @WHO

Every year 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice.  @WHO

FGM has no known health benefits, and those girls and women who have undergone the procedure are at great risk of suffering from its complications throughout their lives.  @WHO

The procedure of FGM is painful and traumatic, and is often performed under unsterile conditions by a traditional practitioner who has little knowledge of female anatomy or how to manage possible adverse events.  @WHO

Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause several immediate and long-term genitourinary health consequences.  @WHO

The practice of FGM– prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East – is now present across the globe due to international migration

The centuries-old practice of FGM is a social norm, buttressed by underlying gender structures &power relations and deeply rooted in tradition.

Where it is widely practiced, FGM is supported by both men and women, usually without question, and anyone that does not follow the norm may face condemnation, harassment and ostracism.

Where FGM is a social norm; it is difficult for families to abandon it without support from the wider community including traditional rulers.

In these communities, it is often practiced even when it is known to inflict harm upon girls because the perceived social benefits of the practice are deemed higher than its disadvantages.

At this point, I will let me Co-anchor @CAPRITOLU to complete the remaining part of the presentation.

Thanks @felxfames for the informative introduction.  

Understanding that FGM  in some culture is a norm necessitates the need to have Traditional rulers as Champions in this campiagn

In Nigeria and Africa, traditional rulers are seen as next to the gods. They are seen to be infallible and know what’s good for their people. The above presupposes that the Ezes, Igwes, Obis, Emirs and Obas can’t and won’t set their people on the wrong path

To this end, traditional rulers and their institutions have crucial roles to play if we must Eliminate FGM in our generation. In communities around the world where people have openly declared to #endFGM, it has been led by the traditional rulers/institutions

In 2009, traditional rulers led community members in the Upper Region, The Gambia to publicly declare abandonment of FGM. Because Nigeria is a global player, best practices around the world have been adopted so we can reduce prevalence and ultimately, incidence of FGM

These supports have been in collaboration with traditional rulers, village heads, community leaders and traditional institutions. One of such efforts culminated in the most recent (globally) public declaration of abandonment of FGM. It was a milestone for us and every stakeholder working ceaselessly to Eliminate FGM.

This declaration which was the first in Nigeria happened on 19th June 2017 in Izzi clan comprising of 3 LGAs in Ebonyi State.

As mentioned earlier, it was also led by the traditional ruler and the declaration was pronounced by the custodian of culture in Izzi clan

Various collaborative efforts by traditional rulers and other stakeholders have resulted in community level dialogues

These dialogues have helped community members to speak openly about FGM and end the culture of silence around the practice

It must be said that the culture of silence has been of the biggest challenges in combating FGM. Those that have been cut do not have the courage to share their pains while those that are uncut don’t think it’s necessary to share their stories either.

With Traditional rulers as FGM elimination champions, the goal of the cmapign to eliminate FGM will  speed up our reach.  Partnering and engaging our traditional rulers would be effective when we clearly define how they can help us

As custodians of culture, when our traditional rulers become FGM elimination champions, it gives the campiagn  “divine credibility”. Our Traditionl rulers being FGM elimination champions erases the doubt of whether FGM is still acceptable in such communities

As FGM elimination champions, they will lead discussions in the community (always) and this will help banishes this culture of silence.

As law makers, they can set up bodies that would monitor (to eradicate) the activities of cutters in their communities. Also, introducing alternative rites of passage is within the ambit of our traditional rulers as law makers. When our traditional rulers function as law enforcers, they help ensure that community members respect the country and community’s law.

Traditional rulers can also make uncut women community ambassadors to preach the good in leaving women uncut. The traditional rulers can help to end Medicalization of FGM by checking the activities of all health workers/facilities in their communities.

In conclusion, traditional rulers has a big role to play in FGM elimination in their communities as they have the influencial power to cause change.

At this point, I will end the presentation to give room for questions and contributions from participants.

To learn more about the campaign and other discussions around FGM, follow our social media handles Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls