Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been portrayed is a form of human rights abuse. Young women and girls who undergo FGM are subjected to the risk of developing infections as well as gynecological and psychological complications.

Where severe bleeding occurs, the risk of death is imminent. Although FGM has been decried as an unnecessary and harmful ritual, it continues to be practiced in many parts of Africa, some parts of Asia, and the Middle East.

Beliefs about the benefits of FGM are deeply entrenched in tradition and culture, making it a difficult practice to eradicate. This entry aims to portray the cultural embeddedness of FGM as the main factor in preventing its eradication.

Good evening all. Welcome to the Weekly Twitter Conference of the Endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign; a UNICEF-supported activity under the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM): Accelerating Change (Phase III) in Nigeria. .  @endcuttinggirls

Thank you all for joining us. I am Titilade Da-Costa @oloridaco1 and my focus today. Our topic for today is “Partnering with Civil Society Organizations to end Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria”. I will start taking your questions from 6:30pm.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons”.

7a. The World Health Organization (WHO), classifies FGM into four broad types, and subgroups, based on the anatomical extent of the procedure, and they are all practices in Nigeria:

7b (i). Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy).

7b (ii) 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.

7c (i) Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision).

7c (ii) 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.

7d (i) 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).

7d (ii) Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

7d (iii) Reinfibulation is covered under this definition. This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.

7e (i) Type IV: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.    

7e (ii) 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 functions as a self-enforcing social convention or social norm. In societies where it is practiced, it is a socially upheld behavioural rule.    

Families and individuals continue to perform FGM because they believe that their community expects them to do so. Families further expect that if they do not respect the social rule, they will suffer social consequences such as derision, marginalization and loss of status.     

While FGM is de facto violent, although it is not intended as an act of violence. It is considered to be a necessary step to enable girls to become women and to be accepted, together with the rest of the family, by the social group of which they are part.  

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 risks girls and women might likely encounter through FGM could be immediate and short term or long term and permanent.

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

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) refer to the set of institutions and organizations that inter-phase between the state, business world, and the family.

Broadly speaking, CSOs include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private voluntary organizations (PVOs), peoples’ organizations, community based organizations (CBOs), civic clubs, trade unions, gender groups, cultural and religious groups, charities, social and sports clubs, cooperatives, environmental groups, professional associations, academia, policy institutions, consumer organizations, and the media.

Civil society refers to “the space for collective action around shared interests, purposes and values, generally distinct from government and commercial for-profit actors”.

Civil society includes charities, development NGOs, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions and advocacy groups.

When civil society becomes formalized, it is referred to as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). These include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), and faith-based organisations (FBOs).

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play an important and relevant role in providing services at the Local, National and International Level. They work in a variety of different fields, such as Human Rights, Education, Health, Gender issues, etc.

CSOs are of great benefit to the society as they can positively affect the process of rural change through their developmental programmes that can lead to an increase in income, improvement health, and etc.

CSOs have the ability to influence ideas and actions of others with the purpose to plan, implement and monitor social and economic development programmes and provide technical and financial helps to the communities.

Apart from the fact that they have their own laid down projects, Civil society organizations (CSOs) also help to shape government policies, and monitor government programmes, and hold governments accountable for their duty to meet the needs of their citizens.

Now let us discuss how we can partner with Civil Society Organizations, which is a very important strategy to ending the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

It has often been said, and I believe you would agree with me, that the development of a nation is not only on the government but also on individuals and organizations.

25a. The inability of governments to meet the needs of the people makes room for CSOs. Government should not see CSOs as competing with them, but complementing their efforts because the purpose of the CSOs is not to replace governments.  

25b. Rather its purpose is to support the efforts of government so as to improve lives and give the lives of people a meaning by upholding justice, human rights, and defending the rule of law.

25c. In other words, governments alone cannot be solely saddled with the elimination of FGM because the government officials/officers cannot be everywhere at the same time. Hence, all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation.

26a. Having stated above that CSOs hold government accountable, they can be deployed to monitor and report on the on-going FGM interventions in the communities.

26b. In order to play the role of a “monitor” it is important for funders to equip CSOs with relevant skills and competencies for effective monitoring and reporting.

26c. CSOs can also act as linkage to support and care for FGM survivors in the local communities of interventions.

26d. CSOs will need to increase their knowledge about FGM, as well the on-going interventions that they intend to monitor.

26e. Also for the CSOs to be able to execute the task properly, they should also be introduced to all the agencies implementing the FGM interventions and the location where they are executing the project.  

26f. This will help CSOs to develop a  plan on how to monitor the project and also deploy their members to cover most areas of the community where these interventions will be taking place.

27a. In order to eliminate FGM, the CSOs should also be linked to all the institutions providing FGM-related services (health, legal, social, etc.) So that they can also monitoring the quality of services being provided by them in that locality. 

27b. Linking CSOs to service providers will also help them access documents/ case reports pertaining FGM in the given community.   

27c. With this link in place, CSOs are also notified each time any of these service providers encounter a new case to enable them follow up and assess the effectiveness of the referral system.

27d. As the CSOs monitor these interventions and service providers, they can also alert government if they observe new cases of FGM in a particular area.

27e. Monitoring of these interventions will also help to identify the key areas of strength or weakness, which will help government to improve the interventions.

28a. Of all the CSOs, the Community Based Organizations (women’s groups, age grades, etc.) and Faith Based Organisation (Christian, Muslim, etc.) are best suited to monitor these interventions due to their spread and presence in the communities.

28b. In addition to the CBOs and FBOs, networks of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) can also play this role effectively, once their members are present within the communities where these interventions are taking place. 

28c. In order to reach the wider community, the NGOs should collaborate with other CSOs (FBOs and CBOs) because they have established structures that can easily be deployed for effective monitoring and reporting.

29a. However, before engaging any CSO it is important to build their capacity and provide them with adequate information on FGM and the intervention.

29b. This will help to prepare them to do an effective job.  CSOs capacity must be enhanced in facilitating sessions in local languages, especially in rural areas where interventions are being executed.

29c. They must be able to adequately translate FGM related terms to fit into these languages and their understanding. 

29d. It is also important to build the Capacity of the CSOs on Report Writing.  This will enable them to produce professional reports that can be presented to government on the outcome of their assignment. 

29e. It is also important to train the CSOs on how to present their findings to government and advocate for changes to policy and programmes that will help in eliminating FGM.

30. CSOs have the potential to monitor FGM intervention, on behalf of the people.  They can engage with government to ensure that only policies and programs that will lead to FGM elimination are implemented in Nigeria.

31. CSOs must also be trained on proper monitoring and evaluation techniques to ensure that every intervention project executed is done in accordance with outlined objectives and that they are meet the ‘do no harm’ requirements.

32. Reports of intervention projects executed by CSOs must also be detailed and easily understood by agencies that use such reports for policy formulation and implementation.  

33. CSOs must therefore be well-grounded in formulating simple, yet detailed, reporting formats. CSO can use already laid down templates such that interventions by agencies can be easily annexed to all and sundries with the aim of realizing the stated objective.

34. CSO can have periodic meetings and discussions with existing Community Based Organization Organization (CBO’s), Faith Based Organizations (FBO’s) working on FGM.

35. The summary of all I have said today is CSOs are not meant to compete with the government but they can always serve as monitors if partnered with and properly empowered.

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

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

38. Together, we will end Female Genital Mutilation in this generation.