TWEET CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Strengthening Women to Lead the Campaign to in Nigeria – 18.07.2019
It is a common place in the world that people set solutions for problems without involving those affected in the process.
At the transitioning of the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN realised that young people have been neglected in the decisions that would affect them
As the world continues to work to , it is essential that girls and women, who undergo this practice are strengthened to own and lead the campaign.
In 1997, the World Health Organisation (@WHO) defined Female Genital Mutilation as the partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the genitalia for no medical reason .
Under the definition above, WHO classified FGM into four (4) categories based on methodology, extent of flesh removed, and severity of the act
In the categorisation, Type I is referred to as Clitoridectomy. This where the clitoris and or the prepuce is removed
Type 1 also has a subgroup namely: 1a, removal of clitoral hood or prepuce only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris and the prepuce
Excision is regarded as the removal of the clitoris, clitorial hood and the labia minora with or without excision of the labia majora. Excision is classified as Type II #endcutiinggirls
The subgroup of Type 2 are: type iia, removal of 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
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 appositioning of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and appositioning 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
Many other acts that reduce or kill the sensitivity of the female genitalia and controls women’s sexuality are regarded as unclassified in type 4. These acts include but not limited to massaging, stretching, pricking etc.
Type IV also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitise it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Nigeria
The dangers associated with FGM are either short term or long term. In either of the categorisation, it affects the health, mental and social state of the survivor.
It must also be established that FGM is a social norm that thrives under the cloak of religious beliefs and has been established as a social norm.
It is also important to note that no religion endorses the practice of FGM but the drivers of FGM (mothers and grandmothers) have used religion as a good cover for the practice
As a social norm, it goes without saying that in practising communities, members proceed to cut with an assumption that other members of the community expects them to cut
The practice is also shrouded in silence as it has been categorised by many as taboo. This has made it easier for myths and misconceptions around FGM to sell without check for a long time
For emphasis, FGM is harmful with no known benefit. With immediate and long term consequences depending on the severity of cutting owning to methodology, tools, and expertise of the cutter.
To learn more on Female Genital Mutilation (why the practise, types and beliefs), kindly visit endcuttinggirls.org
Today’s topic will be discussed under three areas which will look at the experiences of the survivor, creating a safe space for survivors and ensuring there is level playing field for all.
In Nigeria, it is commonplace that women are not given the needed room to advance cases that affect them.
Female Genital Mutilation is one of the many cases and it affects women as much as children.
Report has it that over 200 million girls and women have undergone at least one or more type of FGM either at the early or later stage of their lives
Of this 200 million women around the world, 20 percent are Nigerians. When considered as a whole number, out of the country’s population, it’s a number that is worrisome
With the facts stated above, it is imperative that girls and women are strengthened to ensure that the practice of #FGM is eliminated as targeted by the UN under global goals by 2030.
In building their capacity and urging them to fully participate in the campaign against #FGM, the experiences of survivors and women in general must be amplified and taken to the nook and cranny of the country
In doing this, survivors must be encouraged to talk about their experiences – from the pain to their recovery and how they have coped with the social issues that arose from going through such act
While we encourage survivors to talk, we must not let the lessons from these survivors slip through our fingers without telling them in practising communities. These stories will be able to dissuade new incidences of #FGM and when it helps to change the narratives at the communities, the survivors will be able to own their experience.
As they own their experiences, it hastens their healing process and help them to avert new cases of #FGM in their communities and around them
To have a society that learns from the history of her people to shape and drive their narratives, we must create safe spaces for women to talk on issues that affect the practice
Through the safe spaces, women can openly discuss issues without fear of judgment or excommunication in the larger community. These safe spaces will allow everyone – survivors and women that are uncut – as they can use their narratives to debunk myths and misconceptions that drive the practice.
The conversation and model for running the safe spaces must be one that will inspire confidence, clear the doubts of people in the community and help to protect the women
The model used for intergenerational discussions (community dialogue) can be adopted for running such safe spaces.
This model can help to remove barriers that limit discussions of issues on FGM and around it. When these barriers are removed, women will confidently pick up the gauntlet and march on
Kofi Annan reckoned that “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. And to ensure that the quote above is hold to be true, all barriers that limit women from achieving their full potentials which #FGM is one of them
Just like Kofi Annan said, we must ensure that women get a level playing field to help them in a society that is culturally structured to their disadvantage.
To level the playing ground as a means of strengthening of women in the campaign to , CSOs, government agencies and all stakeholders must ensure that they come together to do the under-listed
Give girls and women life building skills, improve access to education and economic liberty
@UNICEF defines life skills as knowledge, attitudes and the ability for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with challenges of everyday life. Life building skills range include but not limited to Critical Thinking and Decision Making, Communication and Interpersonal Skills, and Coping and Self-Management.
Communication and Interpersonal Skills ensure that girls and women can negotiate, manage conflict, cooperate, have empathy and mobilise needed resources to push their cause
Critical Thinking and Decision Making will help women understand the conditions around #FGM and help to take the right decisions to avert new cutting within their families and communities. It will put the practice in perspectives and reshape the way women in their communities see and present their cases against #FGM
The coping and self-management helps women to manage their self-image and feelings. Through these women can control the optics and representation of a practice that puts them at a disadvantage. All these life building skills are essential and are collaborative to the knowledge women will acquire through formal education. Improving the access of women to formal education will give women the mental power needed to move beyond the shackles of their communities and proceed to uplift the campaign to #endcuttinggirls.
Through formal education, women will also lead better lives and will no longer keep them at whims and caprices of the drivers of #FGM in their communities. In the overall goal of strengthening women’s capacity to sustain the campaign, economic liberty is sacrosanct for the two divides involved in #FGM
The cutters, mostly women, sometimes engage in the practice for the economic gains. This motive is one of the many that allows the practice to thrive. Economically liberated women will be able to take better decisions as it affects their daughters, sisters and, wards. They also have better standing in the society and they become beacons of glad tidings for other women in their societies.
I will like to emphasise the words of Kofi Annan “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. As mentioned at the start of this conference, kindly send in your questions and don’t forget to use our hashtag for easy tracking