Anchor: Cynthia Omo Ade-Martins (@iamcindymartins)

It is a worrisome the fact that at least 200 million girls and women alive today across some 30 countries of the world have undergone FGM.  

Gladly, concerted global efforts, such as the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM: Accelerating Change, has seen an overall decline in the prevalence of the practice over the last three decades.  

WHO defined Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in 1997 as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.  

FGM was classified by WHO into 4 types based on process and extent of mutilation with sub divisions;  

FGM Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type Ia: removal of the prepuce/clitoral hood (circumcision) and FGM Type Ib: removal of the clitoris with the prepuce  

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

The 3 subdivisions are of FGM Type II are; FGM Type IIa: removal of the labia minora only; FGM Type IIb: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; and FGM Type IIc: partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora  

FGM Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the 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).  

The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type IIIa: removal and a positioning the labia minora with or without excision of the clitoris; and FGM Type IIIb: removal and a positioning the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris  

Type 4 Unclassified; refers to all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, including cauterization, pulling, incision, piercing, pricking, and scrapping for non-medical reasons.  

Every year, 3 million girls and women are subjected to one form of FGM or another. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that the practice of FGM has no known benefit to the survivors, family or the society at large.  

Having known that FGM has no know benefit, it is important that efforts are intensified to ensure that we protect the feminine gender from further harm both the born and unborn.  

For more information about basic facts about FGM, visit Also do well to follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms for constant updates about the EndFGM campaign.  

You can also visit or watch     

Now let us talk about today’s conference, we will be focusing on Equipping girls with Life building skills and empowering them to become “EndFGM Advocates” in Nigeria  

FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15years. This is, therefore, a reason for us to amplify efforts in equipping girls with Life building skills and also empowering them to become #EndFGM advocates.

Empowering young girls with adequate information will help to shape their attitudes and influence their future behaviour towards the abandonment of FGM.

One of the key things that we must first understand about empowering any individual (Girls and women) is that it begins with education.

It is good to note that, topics around FGM have been integrated into the formal/non-formal education sectors in Nigeria, which makes it less of a taboo for young girls to receive accurate information. 

Now that FGM has been included in the curriculum in Nigeria, the next step on the ladder of empowering girls to becoming #EndFGM advocates would be equipping them with Life building skills.

Skills: Special competencies a person acquires over a period of time to correctly perform a task or correctly deal with specific situations.

Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life (Source: World Health Organisation (WHO), 1993).

‘life skills’ refers to a broad group of psychosocial competences and interpersonal skills that help people make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically, communicate effectively, build health relationships, empathise with others, and cope with and manage their lives in a healthy and productive manner.

Life skills may be directed toward personal actions or actions toward others. It can also be directed towards actions to change the surrounding environment to make it conducive to health.

Skill-based health education is an approach to creating or maintaining healthy lifestyles and conditions through the development of knowledge, attitudes, and especially skills, using variety of learning experiences, with an emphasis on participatory methods. (Source: WHO, 2003).

There is no definitive list of life skills. However, some important psychosocial and interpersonal skills may be grouped into three broad categories, namely; 1) Decision-Making and Critical Thinking Skills; 2) Communication and Interpersonal Skills; and 3) Coping and Self-Management Skills.

All skills listed are interrelated and complement one another.  However, different skills apply to different situations, but many skills can be applied to one situation. 

Since there are so many such skills, we have listed 10 core life skills that are required by young people to become EndFGM Advocates.  These are 1) Self-awareness; 2) Empathy; 3) Critical thinking; 4) Creative thinking; 5) Decision making; 6) Problem solving; 7) Effective communication; 8) Interpersonal relationship; 9) Coping with stress; and 10) Coping with emotions.

Self-awareness has to do with the recognition of ‘self’. Our character, our strengths and weaknesses, desires and dislikes.

Developing this skill (Self-awareness) will help women and girls recognize when they are being pressured into making harmful decisions like deciding to cut or be cut.

Empathy – helps us improve social interactions and accept others who may be different from us especially in situations of ethnic or cultural diversity. This skill (Empathy) will help reduce discrimination against women who have been cut. It’d also cater for women who engage in female genital mutilation due to discrimination/fear of acceptance

Critical thinking is an ability to analyze information and experiences in an objective manner. It helps us assess the factors that influence values, peer pressure, etc. This skill (Critical thinking) will enable women and girls to think and rethink serious decisions like getting cut or not and the risk factors involved.

Creative thinking is basically a way of seeing things that reflects fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. This skill (Creative thinking) is necessary for women and girls as it helps them find new and creative ways to keep themselves and others around them out of harm’s way.

Decision making –is a process of taking a definite position on a particular issue on which action must be taken. It is the act of making up one’s mind on an issue or a thing. This skill (Decision making) will help women and girls make informed and prompt decisions about their lives and health. Especially in cases where risks arise as a result of FGM

Effective communication – this speaks of the ability to express ourselves both verbally and non-verbally, in ways that are appropriate to our cultures and situations. This skill (Effective communication) is vital to women and girls because it breaks the culture of silence and helps them express their desires, needs and fears. This may mean being able to ask for advice or help in time of need.

Life building skills education contributes to basic education, child care and protection, promotion of lifelong learning and quality of life. When women and girls are equipped with these skills, they feel better empowered to stand as #EndFGM advocates.

Previous EndFGM campaigns have been focused mainly on empowering older women to prevent the incidence of FGM. Currently, we would highly recommend that be actively young girls be carried along in the campaign and their enlightenment should be made a priority just like the enlightenment of older women. .

As part of the efforts to empower young Girls as #EndFGM change agents in Nigeria, The Output 2 of the Phase 3 of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM (UNJP) result framework is to Strengthened girls’ and women’s assets and capabilities to exercise their rights”

The UNJP supports capacity building skills for girls–educated or not–based on competencies, and through comprehensive sexual education programs, professional development and programs of “Girl Club’s”  

The aim of the capacity building is to integrate FGM in the life building skills training of girls with the objective of making them agents of change in their families and their communities.  Alternatively, Life Skills Building can be mainstreamed into EndFGM interventions for young girls.   

Currently these capacity building programmes for Girls in and out-of-school is currently going in many communities in the five joint programme pilot states (#Osun, #Ekiti, #Ebonyi, #Imo, and #Oyo) in Nigeria. The girls that undergo these empowerment programs have become EndFGM advocates and are now leading the campaign to end the practice of FGM in their schools, families and communities.

In conclusion, young girls are major stakeholders in the fight against FGM and must be empower as End FGM change agents.  

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