TWEET CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Partnering with the Education Sector to end FGM in Nigeria – 20.06.2019
Quality, universal education is a vital step in the eradication of FGM in Nigeria, as it is everywhere, and a good level of literacy in the population makes the anti-FGM message easier to spread. Ending Female Genital Mutilation and other forms of GBV is a priority for countries wishing to achieve ambitious global goals on inclusive and quality education for all and gender equality.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) otherwise known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is defined as “all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. @WHO
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.
Recent World Bank analysis demonstrates that FGM can be reduced, particularly when mothers are better educated.
Recent legislation banning FGM in states where it is prevalent is a major step forward. Although, the practice continues, most analysis strongly suggests that much more intensive investments in girl education are urgently needed.
The Nigerian education system has five main levels. Pre-primary is three years from the age of three; primary is six years from the age of six; junior secondary is three years from the age of 12; and senior secondary is three years from the age of 15.
Succeeding senior secondary, in Nigeria, is University (a Bachelor in four years) or non-university tertiary education (UNESCO/UNICEF, 2012, p.3).
The majority of education in Nigeria is provided by the public sector, and all three tiers of government (federal, state and local) have responsibilities. A recent survey has shown that 51% of students attend state schools, 18.5% private schools and 16.5% local-government schools. 5.4% of students’ education is provided by religious bodies.
In Nigeria, the local-government education authorities report to the State Universal Education Boards, which support primary and secondary schools. The National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non Formal Education, as the name suggests, is responsible for adult and non-formal education, and tertiary education is largely the responsibility of the Federal Government (British Council, 2012, p.26).
The private sector is a significant provider, and an even larger provider in certain poor, urban areas (British Council, 2012, p.26); E.g., in Lagos private schools account for two-thirds of enrolment (1.5 million children at prim. and jnr-sec. levels). It is estimated that there are around 18,000 private schools in Lagos alone (DFID, 2013, pp.1-2). The public perception is that they are better than Government schools because teachers work longer hours (p.3).
There are high and low-cost private schools, and nearly a third of Children attending private schools in Lagos come from households living below the absolute poverty line (p.2). Addressing a complex issue such as FGM in a way that will bring about sustainable change requires a comprehensive and context-sensitive response involving many and varied education organizational structures .
Coordination across all levels is needed to understand the perspectives of these different structures, what constrains and enables them to act, and what support, training and resources they need. It is clear from previous research undertaken by @28TooMany that the inclusion of FGM education in schools is an essential element in addressing the issue.
This view is also reflected in other studies; for instance, a survey of secondary-school teachers in North Central Nigeria (2015) put forward the opinion of the participating teachers that awareness of FGM and its implications should be taught in schools (Adeniran et al, 2015).
In the education sector, there are also different union and associations that sees to the overall development of teachers. Some of these unions and association includes: Teachers Union, International School Educators of Nigeria, and Association of Christian Schools International. Teachers’ union is one important structure to partner with in the education sector to end FGM in Nigeria.
Teachers’ union represent the collective of teachers as employees. As such, they have strong legitimacy among teachers and play a key role in setting the standards, codes of conduct and practice, and employment terms of teachers.
As teachers play a key role in preventing and responding to FGM, teaching unions can support their members to access appropriate training and support on FGM, raise awareness about FGM and advocate at a national policy level.
Teachers’ unions are therefore key partners in both changing teachers’ behaviours and experiences and in looking at the wider system of education to strengthen support, capacity and readiness to address FGM.
With growing pressure on teachers worldwide to measure progress in more limited ways, such as enrolment, attendance or learning outcomes, teacher report that the well-being and wider development of learners can be sacrificed (UNAIDS IATT, 2015). Working with teachers’ unions can help education systems to give teachers the mandate to better promote students’ social and emotional well-being and create safer learning environments to this end.
Teachers’ unions should be involved in raising awareness of FGM among their members, producing tools and materials and training teachers. The Federal and State Ministries of Education (F/SMOE) could do more to support teachers to address FGM by reviewing the school curriculum to accommodate FGM and other harmful practices affecting the wellbeing of children.
The Federal and State Ministries of Education (F/SMOE) could, for example, provide better and more training, professional guidance, stronger teacher resources, as well as clear written codes of conduct and ethics on FGM and harmful practices.
Work is also being done by various NGOs in Nigeria to ensure that FGM education is included in school curricula. The Girls’ Power Initiative provides information for adolescent girls both in their centres and by conducting lessons in selected schools.
This outreach programme aims to educate girls on gender and reproductive-health issues, including issues around GBV and FGM, and aims to train teachers to further this work by continuing lessons and running GPI clubs in their schools (GPI, 2016). The Centre for Healthcare and Economic Empowerment for Women and Youth (CHCEEWY) also attempts to advance FGM education in the school curriculum in Plateau, Benue and Enugu States, where it operates.
In partnership with others, it trains teachers to deliver the Family Life and HIV Education and Family Life and Emerging Health Issues programmes, which are approved by the Federal Government.
Again, the formation of clubs in schools to continue this education is proving successful and being supported by a number of international donors such as Oxfam (CHCEEWY, 2016). The Child Health Advocacy Initiative (CHAI) advocates for more FGM education in schools and
through clubs in Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and Ogun States, where it works.
The Center for Social Value and Early Childhood Development (CESVED) also raises awareness in schools and holds workshops for school head-teachers in Cross River State (Augustine, 2016).
Currently, The UNCEF-UNFPA Joint Programme is building the capacity of in and out of school girls with life skills that will enable them resist any form of FGM and educate their peers and family members on the consequences of the practice.
In Nigeria, FGM has, finally being included being included in the Junior Secondary School (JSS 3) Curriculum. It is under Social Studies (Sub-Theme Culture and Social Values), and the topic on FGM is treated under the harmful traditional practices.
In Nigeria, FGM has also being included being included in the Curriculum for Out of School Boys and Girls. FGM is treated under the harmful traditional practices.
In conclusion, Partnership with the education sector is Vitol in the campaign to end FGM in Nigeria.
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At this point, I will give room for questions and contributions from participants. Thank you all for reading our tweets
Together we will end FGM in this generation.