TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Advocacy dialogue with Traditional and religious leaders: a consensus-building strategy for ending – 21.11.2019
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises “all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.
FGM includes harmful practices such as “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly/herbal concoctions/hot water to the clitoris to desensitise it or push it back into the body, which is very common in Imo State. FGM violates girls and women’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.
Globally, it is estimated that about 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM worldwide and at least 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 Secretary General).
Ending FGM takes work at many levels such as dialogue and action that engages families and communities, protection and care services for girls/women, enforcement of laws, and political commitment at the local, state, national and international levels.
Since in 2014, when the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on elimination of FGM: Accelerating Change (UNJP) commenced in Nigeria, UNICEF has been supporting social norms change interventions in Five focal State; Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo States.
These interventions, being delivered in partnership with government agencies and civil society organisations, include mapping community structures as platforms to drive the community engagements, public fora/community dialogues on FGM abandonment, Other interventions, in Nigeria, include training of EndFGM Community Champions to conduct small group discussions, as well as establishing a state-level and LGA-level coordination structures, called the State and LGA Technical Committees on FGM. Other interventions include mapping of the existing community structures as platforms to drive the community engagements; public fora and community dialogues on FGM abandonment, training Male Engage Alliance to EndFGM, Community Dialogues and Consensus Building Meetings and conducting educational dialogues and sensitizing men, women and young people about FGM using different settings (schools, churches, health facilities, etc.).
After these interventions, the key stakeholders from the Communities held Consensus Building Meeting and Review Meeting towards a Public Declaration of their decision to abandon FGM in their communities. These consensus building meetings were used to consolidate the impact of the on-going educational dialogues and awareness creation in the five states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo) where the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme is taking place.
While facilitating this consensus building meeting, the community gatekeepers admitted that, having recognized the negative consequences of FGM on the health of their girls and women have resolved to abandon the practice of FGM their community.
They agreed that, since FGM is a social norm, a Public declaration of the abandonment of FGM would be required to demonstrate their decision to all community members (at home or abroad), neighbouring as well as other intermarrying communities.
The Public declaration of the abandonment of FGM will be followed by a process of organized diffusion to ensure that the decision to abandon FGM spreads rapidly from one community to another and is sustained, while creating an environment that will support change. This includes setting up a surveillance system to track compliance to the commitments made during the Public Declaration, including ending medicalisation of FGM.
One of the key strategies for successfully engaging communities in the campaign to End FGM is Advocacy Dialogue. Advocacy is an activity by an individual/group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems/institutions.
A dialogue indicates a type of communication between people/groups that favours the search for a consensus, which makes it different from a debate. An Advocacy Dialogue, usually, involves people from different interest groups sitting together to focus on an issue in which they have a mutual interest. It assumes that people in different positions will have different perspectives on the same problem. For example, Religious Leaders from different denominations may have different views about the practice of FGM depending on their acceptance and integration of local traditions of their congregation into their practice.
In this case, Advocacy Dialogue becomes the vehicle through which they can be helped to see problems from each other’s perspectives. It is hoped that the Advocacy Dialogue will provide the platform for the Leaders to dialogue and reach a consensus that it is in the best interests of the entire community to end the practice of FGM in both LGAs.
The ultimate goal of advocacy dialogue with Religious Leaders is to secure their support in ending FGM, and their commitment to delink the practice as a religious requirement in the Bible. The ultimate goal of advocacy dialogue with Traditional Rulers and Custodians of Custom is to secure their support in ending FGM by publicly denouncing the practice.
The key objectives of Advocacy Dialogue are listed as follows
- Provide space for Religious Leaders, from different denominations, to dialogue and reach a consensus on FGM abandonment
- Empower the Religious Leaders to adopt appropriate messages on FGM elimination and inform their members using various existing platforms in their churches
- Agree on strategies for mobilizing their congregation to participate in the activities aimed at ending FGM in their communities.
- Provide space for Traditional Rulers and Custodians of Custom to dialogue and reach a consensus on FGM abandonment
- Empower the stakeholders to adopt appropriate messages on FGM elimination and articulate sanctions for deviants that can be enforced at the community level.
- Agree on strategies for mobilizing all their constituents and assessing their readiness to support a public declaration ceremony on FGM abandonment.
- Promote the campaign tagline for entrenching the new norm that abhors cutting.
As a result of advocacy dialogue, Religious leaders and Traditional leaders will be able to achieve the following:
- Sensitise their congregation that FGM is not a religious requirement, using various existing platforms in their churches;
- Ascertain that their congregation is ready to join their community in the Public Declaration to end FGM;
- Convince members of their congregation that want to continue practicing FGM to stop, and encourage them to participate in the activities aimed at ending FGM.
- Track the girls at risk of FGM in their congregation and apprehending defaulters who attempt to subject them to FGM
- Sensitise their communities that they have denounced the practice of FGM;
- Ascertain that their communities are ready for a Public Declaration to end FGM;
- Convince community members that want to continue practicing FGM to stop or face sanctions.
- Track the girls at risk of FGM in the community and develop strategies for protecting them from FGM, and apprehending anyone who attempts to subject them to FGM
At this point, I will end the presentation to give room for questions and contributions from participants.
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. #endcuttinggirls
Together, we will end Female Genital Mutilation in this generation. #endcuttinggirls