Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is 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.

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.  @WHO @endcuttinggirls

FGM damages normal female genital tissues and interferes with the natural functioning of women’s genitals. Despite global efforts to promote the abandonment of the practice, FGM remains widespread.

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.

FGM 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.

FGM of any type is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways.

FGM practice is strongly rooted in the people’s culture and so, it has not been an easy task in getting people to abandon the practice despite the harmful effects on girls and women.

In order to end FGM in Nigeria, there must be partnership between the practicing community and the “EndFGM campaigners” and this can be facilitated through advocacy.

Advocacy is a deliberate process, based on demonstrated evidence, to directly and indirectly influence decision makers, stakeholders and relevant audiences to support and implement actions that contribute to the fulfillment of children and women’s rights.

Advocacy starts with an understanding of the situations as based on the identification of shortfalls in realization of the rights of Girls and Women, as well as those whose actions or inactions contribute to such shortfalls.

Advocacy serves as a strategic tool to draw the attention of policy makers on the magnitude of the practice of FGM, especially in high prevalence states.

Advocacy helps to identify and produce evidence on who should be targeted in #EndFGM campaigns.

Advocacy can be expressed through different ways like, listening to the people involved, being non-judgmental, providing you with information, advice and guidance, genuinely understanding your concerns & respecting your decisions. Advocacy also provides a platform for survivors to tell their story.

There is nothing more inspiring and motivating than hearing FGM survivors tell their stories of how they overcome the challenges that they were facing as a result of the procedure.

Advocacy brings together the most passionate, influential members of the prevalent communities.

In most cases, advocacy provides a hands-on learning experience.  It also wages hope and inspires change in the community.

Advocacy helps in bringing policy issues to the forefront of the agenda for decision-makers, by building awareness, visibility and public momentum behind the issue.

These policy issues brought to the forefront of the agenda of decision makers helps in creating a linkage between the community members and the policy makers. 

A Human Rights Based Approach to advocacy starts with addressing underlying causes of problems to achieve equity, and addresses issues of equity to solve underlying causes of problems.

A Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) to advocacy has the following characteristics listed as follows;

  • HRBA to Advocacy promotes participation and partnership based on the belief that all people, including girls and women, are entitled to a say in the decisions that affects them.
  • HRBA to advocacy recognizes children, women and men as key actors in their development by having them use and organize their sources of power to claim their rights.
  • HRBA to Advocacy entails the building of community capacity for children and women to understand their rights, to claim their rights, and to make meaningful contribution to realizing these rights.
  • HRBA to advocacy facilitates participation in societal decision-making as an objective in itself. It calls for a people centered approach and child-centered approach to advocacy, to address inequity.
  • HRBA to Advocacy targets accountability of those with duties towards children/women, recognizing that holding those with power accountable to rights holders is key to sustainable institutional and social arrangements that guarantee children their rights.
  • HRBA to Advocacy emphasizes that all rights apply to all children without exception or discrimination.
  • HRBA to Advocacy highlights patterns in the non-fulfillment of rights that reveal underlying conditions of marginalization and exclusion, and addresses these issues.
  • HRBA to Advocacy focus is also to bring a more equitable power distribution in the society, thereby improving the condition and position of the rights holders by addressing causes of rights violations at all levels – immediate, underlying and root.
  • HRBA to Advocacy is founded on the legal duties of governments and the ethical duties of all people, drawing both on the obligations arising from ratification of the CRC and the enduring moral principles of children’s rights that the Convention reflects.
  • HRBA to Advocacy strives to ensure that national laws and policies are in conformity with international human rights instruments.

Advocacy designed to change systems is distinct from advocacy on behalf of an individual victim of violence in the courts or within the community. 

Systems advocacy means efforts to change policy and practice at the local, national or international level; to change the situation for groups of individuals who share similar problems. While systems advocacy works to improve the system to the benefit of individuals, it is a long-term approach to problem solving requiring sustained effort. Advocates working at the system level must always keep the practical needs of victims in mind when changing policies and systems. 

An effective strategy to address violence against women and girls should incorporate both practical, policy and systems change activities.

In many ways, bringing an end to FGM requires building partnership, changing community norms and societal attitudes that discriminates against women and subjugates the rights of women to those of men.  

Programmatic interventions must aim to promote the empowerment of women and girls through awareness raising campaigns and increasing their access to education.

Accelerating social change and creating the necessary preconditions will enable women to realize the full extent of their rights and may help them conclude that the practice of FGM can end.

In conclusion, Advocacy is a set of targeted actions directed at decision makers in support of a specific policy issue. It is about helping people to say what they want; represent their interest; gain the services and support they need or are entitled to

Due to the importance of Advocacy, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme in Nigeria has utilized this this strategy to build partnerships with policy makers and decision makers in government and the focus communities, respectively.

The use of Advocacy as a strategy, by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme in Nigeria, was one of the factors that lead to public declarations of abandonment of FGM in some of the focus communities in the five states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo)

This is where I will end today’s segment of the conference and will glad standby to take your questions. Thank you for staying with me to discuss “Advocacy: An Important step in building partnership to end FGM”.

Together, we will #endcuttinggirls in this generation.