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, all of which are practiced in Nigeria.

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

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

 FGM Type III: This type is called infibulation and involves 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).

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.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM, and every year some 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to its potential negative health consequences (UNICEF 2016).

FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who play other central roles in communities, such as Traditional Birth Attendants.  

FGM has no known health benefit, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of a woman’s body.

The practice of FGM continue to prevail for reasons including; Respect for Tradition, Rite Of Passage, Social Convention, Marriageability, Virginity, Fertility, Chastity and Faithfulness, Cleanliness, Femininity, and Religion.

For more information about FGM you can visit https://endcuttinggirls.org/ or https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a growing concern in the world, it strongly violates the human rights of individuals hence the campaign to eliminate the practice must be hastened.

In Nigeria, The UN Joint Programme on FGM in recognition of the complex interplay of social, cultural, economic and political factors that increase girls’ and women’s likelihood of undergoing FGM, promotes sustainable social norms change and gender transformation. 

One of the proposed strategies for achieving this outcome is the increased engagement of men and boys on changing social and gender norms. 

This strategy is vital because many interventions on FGM elimination do not engage men or male groups as strategic partners in leading the campaign to end FGM. 

In most cases the men, and male groups, participate in community dialogues and similar social mobilization interventions but are rarely engaged as advocates due to the belief that FGM is a “woman’s issue”.

This situation has limited their ability to contribute to the campaign beyond these initial engagements.  Men in their diverse roles (fathers, husbands, relatives, community leaders, religious leaders, etc.) have been perpetuating the practice of FGM either by omission or commission. 

While some men have openly supported the practice by paying for the procedure or served as traditional cutters, others aid the practice through their silence. 

Men hold very prominent positions in the community and have a lot of influence within and outside the home, especially in a patriarchal society. 

Men also belong to groups (religious, social, traditional, etc.) that address social issues and contribute to the development of their communities. 

These Men and their groups have the potential to contribute to the elimination of FGM.   Unfortunately, these potential has not been well explored. 

Male engage Alliance intends to bridge this gap by engaging community-based male groups as strategic partners in promoting women’s health by advocating for the elimination of FGM. 

The expectation is that if men become involved in the campaign to eliminate FGM, there is a greater likelihood that they will motivate their families and community’s to end FGM.

Before a Male Engage Alliance is formed, there must be some level of capacity building for the male groups.

The aim of the capacity building is:

  • To discuss the ways in which female genital mutilation (FGM) impacts women’s health and rights
  • To learn about women’s sexual and reproductive rights and how knowing these rights can empower women to make informed decisions about their wellbeing
  • To discuss ways that men can support and promote the elimination of the practice of FGM.

Successful programs and initiatives show that the most appropriate and effective way to engage the community on the issues about FGM is to introduce the topic within a wider context.

Approaching the topic directly can be confronting and unproductive for participants who may never have discussed the issue before and who may consider the subject taboo.

The topic is most effectively integrated within programs as part of a holistic approach to increasing women’s and girls’ health, wellbeing and independence.”

Unless you have already established a relationship of trust with your group, or have been specifically invited to speak on the topic of FGM, best practice literature suggests that the topic of FGM should be framed within a wider context relating to women’s health and/or human rights.

Raising the issue of FGM without established trust or proper context has been widely recognized as ineffective and can potentially have negative consequences for participants.  

For this reason, a Guide on Male Engagement strategy should be developed to address the topic of FGM from a number of perspectives including gender equity, human rights and sexual and reproductive health.

In some States in Nigeria, the male engagement strategy has been implemented and the outcome has gone to prove that male engagement is key in Ending Female Genital Mutilation.  

The core aim of the male engage alliance is to advocate for the wellbeing of Girls and Women in their community.

The Male engage alliance will also discuss FGM and other issues affecting the live of their Girls and Women during their regular meetings.

In conclusion, to contribute to the elimination of harmful practices as proposed by Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), engaging male groups is key.

It’s time to see and respond to your questions and/or opinions based on the conference topic. Keep them coming.

Together we will end FGM in this generation.