TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Community Based Youth Associations: Important partners in ending FGM in Nigeria – 08.08.2019
By Anthony Ayeni
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. There are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is mostly performed on 1-day-to 18-year-old females (95% of all FGM cases) which shows how important it is to partner with youths to put an end to it. From Nigeria, Happy #YouthDay2019 in advance and welcome to another interesting edition of the @UNICEF_Nigeria social media awareness creation to end Female Genital Mutilation.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) 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”.
In other words, it is any procedure that causes injury to the female genitals without medical indication.
The World Health Organization (@WHO), classifies FGM into four broad types, based on the anatomical extent of the procedure: …
Type I (Clitoridectomy): This refers to the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (the fold of skin covering the clitoris). This is also referred to as ‘Sunna’.
Type II (Excision): Removal (in part or whole) of the clitoris and labia minora. The labia majora may or may not be removed.
Type III (Infibulation): Here, the vaginal orifice is narrowed, and a covering seal created by cutting and repositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora. The clitoris may also be removed. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Pharaonic’.
Type IV (Unclassified): Any other harmful procedure performed on the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing and incision of the clitoris and/or labia, stretching and/or cutting of the vagina (‘gishiri’), scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal opening (‘angurya’) and cauterization.
It also includes the introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding or to tighten or narrow the vagina, as well as massaging the clitoris with hot water or petroleum jelly to de-sensitize the clitoris (common in 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, 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. @WHO
For additional reading on FGM you can visit http://www.who.int and www.endcuttinggirls.org or watch
One of the reasons why the practice of FGM has persisted in some communities is because it is a social-taboo and influenced by cultural, tradition and religion. These influences include social pressure to conform to peers, perception of FGM as necessary to raise a girl properly and prepare her for adulthood and marriage e.t.c.
In most FGM practicing communities, the issue of FGM is not an open discussed and this has made most people unaware of the negative consequences of the practice on the health and wellbeing of their girls and women.
Ending a social norm like FGM requires collaboration and capacity building of relevant stakeholders in the community. Apart from other Stakeholders like women, men, religious leaders, traditional leaders etc, the Youths are important stakeholders to partner with in the campaign to #endFGM in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the youths organizes themselves into community based groups some of these groups could be referred to as Age grade groups, Community youth associations, Youth Development union etc. The youth groups or associations usually meet on specific occasions or at least monthly or weekly to discuss developmental issues affecting their communities. These groups are referred to as Community based- youth associations.
Community based- youth associations are typically, and almost necessarily, staffed by local members – community members who experience firsthand needs within their neighborhoods.
Governments are increasingly delegating responsibility to Community based- youth associations and relying on them to gather local concerns, develop, plan, and help deliver solutions to community problems.
Community based- youth associations are storehouses, gatekeepers, of local information obviously valuable for their own purposes, but this data is also useful to other organizations and government agencies.
Community Based Youth Associations is representative of a community or a significant segment of a community and works to meet community needs. Since they are so localized, Community Based Youth Associations they will understand the issues surrounding FGM in the community they operate in.
One of the best features of a Community Based Youth Associations, due to their localized focus, is that it is they will have wealth of information regarding the issues like FGM.
Community Based Associations can engage communities in multiple ways, this include “having an open dialogue with the community, will increase awareness on the effects and consequences of Female Genital Mutilation”.
Community Based Youth Associations can collaborate with community partners and local organizations easily because they understand the structure of their environment.
Community Based Youth Associations positively affect the process of rural change through increase in income, improvement of health, health education of the people.
Communities therefore seek solace in Community Based Youth Associations which pressurize government for attention to development problems in their communities and/or undertake development programmes and projects that they observe that are very much needed in their immediate communities.
The Community Based Youth Associations are associated with self-help. They constitute the media for resource mobilization to confront local challenges. Such associations are not money driven but purpose driven. These include stopping dangerous social norms, holding government to finance programs at rural level and press their needs and developing human resources against future development needs of immediate communities.
In communities where FGM is not discussed in the open, partnership with CBYA will help in making FGM an open topic for discussion during community gathering.
Community Based Youth Associations can help at community levels to identify the root cause of Female Genital Mutilation in their community and why it still persist.
This can be found out through survey of residents and discussion with community leaders, health workers and parents, Results of this survey would reflect the personal beliefs, viewpoints, and judgments of community members.
This can be used for intervention because People who respond to such surveys will give valuable information about knowledge, attitudes, and their beliefs concerning Female Genital Mutilation.
This type of survey would include detailed information about the perception of the community members about FGM, what should be done to remedy the situation, the resources available, and the effects it’s having on the community.
Because Community Based Youth Associations are made up of Youth serving in different capacities: the justice system, the public health department, health Institutions, mental health agencies, the Division of Social Services, and the Boys & Girls Club e.t.c. they will be a strong force in ending female genital mutilation because they are made up of diverse people who are strong willed.
The history and importance of community based- Youth association in grassroots communities is a long one. They have been deeply involved in activities that have impacted on the livelihood of members of their communities and have gained there trust.
Lack of trust is perhaps the largest obstacle for community-based intervention researchers. Trust is an asset that must be earned, especially in a vulnerable community.
Community Based Youth Associations will help break this barrier because they are from the same community, this will make the member of the community listen to what they are saying.
For them to function well, there capacity needs to be developed.
Partnership with Community Based Youth Associations will not only build capacity and showed commitment, it will also create an environment in which sustainability of FGM Campaign could thrive.
To partner with Community Based Youth Associations, they need to be educated first about the harmful effect, consequences and the norms surrounding female Genital Mutilation, this enable them function well. .
This training will also enable them identify the problems surrounding this culture clearly and how to provide solutions. .
Partnership with Community Based Youth Associations will also allow the community take ownership of the #endFGM campaign. .
Community ownership is the best way to assure that this campaign becomes a permanent program in the community.
Partnering with Community Based Youth Associations will help the success experienced in some states like Osun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Imo and Oyo state to be sustained in the long-term and transferred to the next generation.
It’s important to note that ending Norms like Female Genital Mutilation in a community that has accepted such over years requires input from the entire community and youths are important people who can help reach the entire community.
In conclusion, the strength of youths to come together to achieve a common goal can’t be under estimated and Community Based Youth Associations are the most important target group and can be a big help to this campaign.
Evidence from around the world shows that violence against girls and women such as Female Genital Mutilation can be prevented with your efforts.
Together we will end FGM in this generation