FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation, and is defined as all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.  There are four types of FGM, as classified by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1997 and subdivided in 2008, and they are:

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

Subdivisions of FGM Type I are: FGM Type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only and FGM Type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision).

Subdivisions of FGM Type II are:  IIa, removal of the labia minora only; IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; and IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

Type III: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with 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).

Subdivisions of FGM Type III are: FGM Type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; and FGM Type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

Reinfibulation is covered under this definition. This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.

Type IV: 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 or at risk of suffering the associated negative health consequences of FGM. 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.

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.  

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.  

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

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

FGM practice is deeply rooted in a strong cultural/social framework. It is endorsed by the practicing community & supported by loving parents who believe that undergoing FGM is in the best interest of their daughter.  The beliefs sustaining the practice of FGM vary greatly from one community to another, although there are many common themes such as ending promiscuity or the maintaining culture tradition of the community.  

Despite its cultural importance, we need to acknowledge the fact that FGM is a harmful traditional practice that violates the rights or girls and women.  Therefore, FGM has to be eliminated.  

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int and www.endcuttinggirls.org or watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s  

FGM can hinder and even end a girl’s education due to the complications  endured by girls following the  practice including health issues, pain and  distress, which can cause girls to be less focused in school or absent and consequently perform poorly and drop out of school (GIZ, 2011b).

It has also been stated that in some areas (e. g Sierra Leone), girls are forced to drop out of school following the procedure as their parents have had to pay a high cost for the FGM ceremony and thereby cannot or are reluctant to continue paying for the education of their daughter (GIZ, 2011b)  and Women and girls with little or no education are less able to make positive contributions to society than those with education.

To ensure Girls and women are safe from FGM, there is need to strengthen the capacity of teachers to help educate students concerning the FGM. Integrating FGM into formal and non-informal education curriculum, the topic is less of a taboo and girls and women can receive accurate information to allow them to make their own independent decisions.

Teachers should be trained to provide knowledge on FGM and sessions on the topic should be delivered in an open manner which allow individuals to exchange experiences and feelings in a safe environment.

Teachers, facilitators and youth workers should receive training so that they can educate young people and also support those at risk of undergoing the procedure, or those that have already undergone the procedure.

Teachers should be taught to know the behavioral warning signs that could indicate a child at risk of FGM.

When there are school safety policies in place, it’s easier to identify and address behaviors that violate the policies or seem to push the boundaries. 

However, regardless of whether there are established policies,  it’s important to discuss behaviors that seem inappropriate or borderline, and to recognize when a situation is risky and needs a response. All states have laws that require certain professionals to report suspected cases of abuse such as FGM to the police or to child protective services. 

Laws vary by state, but teachers and child care providers are almost always legally mandated to report suspected child abuse cases such as FGM. 

Speak with your principal, program director or licensing organization to find out about your state’s reporting laws. While it’s important to know about your employer’s policies about filing reports, in many states you are required to report suspected abuse regardless of your employer’s policy. 

As FGM is a sensitive and emotive subject it is essential that a safe and enabling environment is created. This will ensure that girls are able to learn, explore and discuss sensitive issues and learn where to access further help and support.

Schools should have a whole schools approach to dealing with FGM. This approach should include:-

  • A comprehensive safeguarding procedure that includes FGM.
  • Training (as part of safeguarding or child protection) for staff to identify signs that a girl may be at risk of or have already undergone FGM.
  • Ensuring that the designated member of staff with responsibility for safeguarding children is well versed in the issues around FGM.
  • Identified organisations or establishments to provide support (physical and emotional) for girls who may have undergone the practice.
  • Circulation and displaying of materials about FGM, including support services that girls can access in schools.

Teachers should be aware that some of the pupils may be directly or indirectly affected by the content of the FGM lesson.

Teachers should always be mindful that there may be girls who have undergone FGM in their class. As such the topic should be dealt with sensitively and no assumptions should be made.

It is also essential that signposting for support services is included in all FGM lessons and discussions.

In conclusion, there is need to Strengthening the role of Teachers in the Campaign to end FGM because of the important role they play in the live of girls and women.

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign to end FGM, please visit endcuttinggirls.org and follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls

At this point, I will end the presentation to give room for questions and contributions from participants. Thank you all for reading our tweets