TWEET CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Strengthening the Provision Of FGM Prevention Services through the Education Sector – 26.09.2019
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.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, and they are all practiced in Nigeria.
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.
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.
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.
Type IV: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical 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 has short term and long term effects on the health and well-being of girls and women. Short term effects of FGM include: severe pain, excessive bleeding, shock, genital tissue swelling, infections, among others; while the long term effects include chronic genital infections, urinary tract infections, painful urination, keloids, perinatal risks, etc.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM practice violates women and girls’ rights to health, security and physical integrity, rights to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and rights to life (when the procedure results in death)
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.
It is estimated that about 200 million girls/women have undergone FGM and about 3 million girls/women per year are at risk. Unless action to end FGM is accelerated, another 68 million girls will have been cut by 2030 (Antonio Guterres – UN Sec. Gen.)
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2016-17) revealed that 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% (2011). Conversely, the FGM prevalence among daughters (0-14 years) rose from 19.2% (2011) to 25.3% (2016-17).
To strengthen the educational sector for provision of FGM prevention services, I suggest a 3 pronged approach of counseling, teaching and reiteration. Each concept will be discussed in detail as we proceed.
On the counseling bit, it is important for schools to have trained staffers that are equiped with requisite knowledge and network to provide counseling services to students that are at risk of being cut. The counseling service should also extend to survivors, those being bullied by their peers into submitting to be cut and students that have witnessed the practice.
There is no doubt that students in each category mentioned above are not equipped to handle effectively the pressures of the community and their peers. So also survivors need counseling and support to be able to overcome the trauma that comes with the experience.
To achieve the point of providing counseling in educational system, it is critical that counselors and designated teachers should be trained specially on FGM related issues and counseling. General counseling knowledge may not be sufficient for the peculiarities associated with FGM. The counselors and designated teachers also need to have access to protection networks that they can recommend in extreme situations.
We now have a rather troubling scenario where girls in FGM practicing communities, due to peer pressure, travel outside their states to present themselves for FGM secretly. Targeting schools and educational facilities can help reduce such pressure.
The second prong of strengthening the education sector is teaching. It is important that FGM should form a part of the curriculum in schools. Particularly in secondary schools.
Teaching pupil and students about the dangers of FGM is a powerful tool in changing public opinion and reversing the trend. However, the importance of overall education may seem less clear.
The International Center for Research on Women published a report on FGM and education that stated that, while more research needs to be done, “emerging evidence illustrates that basic education can be an effective instrument for abandoning the practice of FGM.” Several persons are yet to come to terms with the significant relevance of educating these students as a powerful tool to preventing and eradicating the practice of FGM.
This emphasizes the need for school-based interventions, and it further highlights the important roles that schools can play in ending this practice.
By the education sector to provide the needed information, it facilitates the pupil’s access to information about social and legal rights and welfare services.
To further buttress this, the 2013 NDHS in Nigeria shows that women (which includes female pupil/students) with higher levels of education are less likely to have undergone female genital mutilation.
The importance of empowering pupils/students as FGM advocates is an important tool that cannot be overemphasized. I will briefly talk about strategies that can work in empowering/ equipping these pupils.
Possession of right education resources is the first pathway towards achieving our aim. This implies that teachers should be taught and should be able to transfer right knowledge to the pupils.
These resources include; Lesson plans on citizenship and PSHE teaching resources which have been carefully structured in order to ease students into sensitive areas of discussion on FGM. Read more at Action Aid: FGM Teaching Resources.
Lesson plan on raising awareness of the practice of FGM and to educate the young about facts, issues and where to seek help if at risk. Read more at Healthy Schools: KS3 FGM Lesson.
Lesson plan to help students distinguish between myth and fact. This is a great “ice breaker”, which explores why FGM is perpetuated through such myths and engages pupils on the importance of critical thinking. Read more here Orchid Project – Challenging the Myths.
The use of the award-winning drama-documentary, “Silent Scream” tells the story of a young Somali girl living in Bristol. Read more here Documentary – “Silent Scream”.
Beyond teaching them, we should endeavor to provide them with IEC materials which will serve as a guide for them when educating their parents, peers or communities. We should continually increase pupils’ access to education, because educated pupils (boys or girls) are less likely to allow their mothers cut them or subject their future daughters to FGM.
Reiteration is the third prong of the approach for strengthening the provision of FGM prevention services through the education sector. This can be done through peer to peer engagement using existing clubs and groups. It can also be done through drama, simulations, role plays, discussions, contest, etc.
If pupils are inducted as #endcuttinggirls advocates, they would be well equipped and should also commit to some actions. Actions which include but not limited to; respectfully educate parents, senior family members, religious leaders and health professionals on the harmful effects of FGM, and resist any attempt to be cut.
Virtually every school in Nigeria have school clubs. Mainstreaming #endcuttinggirls into their activities will help strengthen the campaign against FGM, it keeps reminding the students on reasons why they shouldn’t support the act, what they should do when they see anyone standing the risk of being cut.
As part of this effort, where reporting platforms are available, it is useful to have students memorize the number to call to access necessary prevention services, and any other relevant information that will assist at-risk children to get needed help in real time.
It is also important for students and teachers to simulate at-risk situations by way of drama and role plays. This can be done either at club level or as part of the curriculum during teaching. This will help the students to be well abreast of necessary steps to take when faced with such situations.
In 2018 UNICEF supported school based #endcuttinggirls activities in some selected secondary schools in the five project States (Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo). The project targeted young secondary school students.
It was as a result of school based activities such as this that provided an opportunity for a student to refuse to be cut, which initiated the events that led to the first ever public declaration of FGM in Nigeria by the people of Izzi Clan in Ebonyi State. See
UNICEF is still partnering with existing school clubs across the five project states to build their capacity through life building skill training for in and out of school girls.
The Life Building skill Programme is designed to strengthen students will towards the elimination of harmful practices as proposed by Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNJP Phase III (2018-2021) has the vision to “contribute to the elimination of FGM by 2030”. The goal is “to accelerate efforts towards the reduction of FGM, fulfilling the rights of girls and women by realizing social and gender norms transformation by 2021”.
The one of the expected outcomes of Phase III of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM is “Outcome 3: Girls and women access appropriate, quality and systemic services for FGM prevention, protection and care.”
Its important to mention that FGM is treated as a harmful traditional practice under Physical and health Education in the Junior Secondary School Curriculum in Nigeria.
For more information on many other topics relating to FGM, visit www.endcuttinggirls.org Also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. Also subscribe to our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM.
I will stop here to entertain questions and comments.
Together we will #endcuttinggirls in this generation.