Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, and they are all practiced in Nigeria.

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

Subgroups of Type I FGM are: type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

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

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

FGM 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).

Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; 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 nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

Type IV also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Nigeria, especially Imo State.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM, and every year some 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to its potential negative health consequences (UNICEF 2016) . FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who play other central roles in communities, such as Traditional Birth Attendants.  

In many settings, health care providers perform FGM due to the erroneous belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized. The medicalization of FGM refers to “situations in which the procedure (including re-infibulation) is practised by any category of health-care provider, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere, at any point in time in a woman’s life”. Healthcare providers who agree to perform FGM are violating the fundamental medical ethical principle or duty of non-maleficence (“do no harm”) and the fundamental principle of providing the highest quality health care possible. 

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

For more information about FGM you can visit https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation or watch

FGM remains widespread in Nigeria with regional and ethnic variations in prevalence.  According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2016 -2017), 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% (2011).  Conversely, the FGM prevalence among daughters aged 0-14 years rose from 19.2% (2011) to 25.3% (2016-2017). 

The reason for practicing FGM include to 1) Enhance Fertility: 2) Respect for Tradition: 3) Rite Of Passage; 4) Social Convention; 5) Marriageability; 6) Ensure Virginity, Chastity and Faithfulness; 7) Cleanliness; 8) Femininity; and 9) Religion.  Whatever the reason provided, FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. This aspect, and the fact that FGM is an embedded sociocultural practice, has made its complete elimination extremely challenging.

The “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” is being implemented to end FGM in 16 countries including Nigeria.  It commences in 2008, while Nigeria joined in 2014. Phase III began in Jan. 2018 and will end by Dec. 2021.  The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM is playing a mammoth role in achieving Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goal, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices by 2030, under Goal 5 of the SDGs.  In Nigeria, one of the strategies adopted by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” is community mobilisation. We shall discuss the process and how it can pay a vital role in the campaign to end FGM.

A community is a group of people, who live within a geographically defined area and who share a common language, culture or values, where families are dependent on one another in their day-to-day transactions, thereby creating mutual advantages.

Community mobilisation is the process of getting people together, sensitizing them towards identifying their needs and problems and how to solve them using their local resources. Community mobilisation in this context is a deliberate effort in the capacity building process, where individuals, clan representatives and community-based organisations, plan, carry out and evaluate activities on a participatory and sustained basis to  #endcuttinggirls

Community-based participatory approaches will help to achieve reliable and sustainable behavioural changes that will ensure the safety of our girls and women

In most societies, where FGM is practised, it is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.

Through community involvement, such harmful cultural practices that continue to exist under the guise of “rites” can be reviewed by the community members and abandoned once they determine that it is harmful. The process of community mobilisation allows the community member to pool their knowledge and experience, and develop ways and means of ensuring an end to FGM using their own resources

A major step to end FGM is to build on each community’s knowledge and beliefs through a continuous dialogue and advocacy

We must continue working with communities to establish credibility and trust, in order to  and raise awareness about Its dangers to girls and women, and enforce penalties for violations where anti-FGM laws exist. The key steps are listed below;

  • It is important to begin with a transparent community selection process to build a positive relationship with the community
  • Through general assessments; interviews  and focus group discussions, community priorities as well as community leaders and gatekeepers can be identified
  • It is important to hold introductory meetings with community leaders; women’s leaders, clan heads, community chiefs, youth leaders, and enlist their support to mobilize community participation in the bid to EndFGM
  • Town hall meetings should be held to elect representatives at direct levels within the community, to support/coordinate program activities
  • Allowing communities to be part of the decision making process to solidifies support and galvanizes local participation when advocating for a change to what is considered a “cultural norm”

When members of any community have the chance to participate in the design, implementation and monitoring of community-level initiatives, the program more accurately reflects their real needs and interests

Community structures of leadership and authority must not be overlooked as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice of FGM, undermining the fight to

Community mobilisation in the campaign to end FGM will help local ownership and the sustainability of the program, ensuring a long-term commitment to a community change movement

When getting involved at the community level, especially in rural regions, it goes without saying that one must portray the required or acceptable behaviour. It is important to be polite but persuasive, patient, a good listener, tolerant and self-restrained, honest, open, non-judgmental and respectful.

While mobilizing a community to raises community awareness about FGM and persuade them to participate in pre-planned activities, it is a comprehensive strategy that includes exploring the issues of violence against women and the girl-child

Communities can key into several resources to tackle FGM on case-to-case basis , as described below;

  • Sensitizations can be carried out for communities to ensure the correct information on laws, better practices and existing referral networks are carried along
  • Community leaders can work with local law enforcement to champion the cause and ensure new cases are reported in a timely manner so preventive measures can be taken as quickly as needed
  • More of such providers of FGM-related services can be identified and intensely sensitized on the dangers of carrying out FGM
  • More households can be reached during routine community sensitizations in order to keep community members informed about the realities of FGM
  • Primary Health Centres (PHC) can key into community initiatives to sensitize women and girls on safe pregnancies, deliveries and after-care practices and strengthening referral networks

Since 2014, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme in Nigeria has been using the above strategy to mobilise the intervention communities in the five focus states in Nigeria, namely, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun, and Oyo. 

The community mobilisation strategy has contributed to the success of the programme in Nigeria, which can be reflected in the growing number of communities that have publicly declared the abandonment of FGM in the five focus states.

In summary, Community mobilisation in general involves certain basic steps that can be applied to any efforts to end. These steps should be taken into account when preparing any type of community mobilisation to realize significant impact. At each level of the community mobilisation process, full participation of all relevant stakeholders is essential for successful community mobilisation. The basic steps of community mobilisation involve the following features described in tweets 34c:

Define the problem; Establish a community mobilisation group; Design strategies; set objectives and select target groups; Develop an action plan with a timeline; Build capacity; Identify partners; Implement the plan of activities; and Monitor and evaluate.

I will end the presentation at this point, please send in your questions and comments lets discuss further on how we can  in our communities using the community mobilisation strategy.

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Campaign, please visit https://endcuttinggirls.org  for information. You may also follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls

Thank you all for your participation and don’t forget to join us again next week .

Together, we will end FGM in this generation.