by Korikiye Teke @Her_petiteness

on Thursday, 19th March 2020

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) classifies FGM into four types, and all four types 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 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).

In Nigeria, 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). 

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To discuss properly the role of traditional Institutions in creating a gender equal world one must first discuss the definition, emergence and relevance of such institutions.

Traditional institutions refers to the indigenous socio-political arrangement whereby leaders with proven track records are appointed and installed in line with the provisions of their native laws and customs (Orji & Olali 2010)

Traditional institutions are agents of maintaining socal equilibrium and building peace of the perspective societies (Nweke 2012)

These institutions are made up of Chiefs and Elders in council and occasionally consists of title holders in the community.

Members of these institutions enjoy social influence in the communities powered by the social capital their positions adorn them with.  The cultural structure of communities are made up of select values and customs which represents their identity while shaping and modeling their behavioral patterns into culturally accepted attitudes.

The acceptance of these institutions by members of the community ensures their relevance and as such makes them a powerful tool for installing cultural and societal change.  

Communities are guided by customs and customary laws with the traditional institutions as custodians of these laws they influence the basic mannerisms of the indigenous people. 

The relevance of traditional institutions in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, our traditional institutions command respect from citizens and even political institutions. There are basic stages by which customary laws are developed and sustained. Customs are first practiced for a period of time after which they’re found helpful due to their positive impact in sustaining their societal values they’re developed into laws.

Customary laws are flexible and subject to changes, reformations, and advancement in response to the changes and developments of their community and environment. Little or no cultural change can be achieved without the active participation of the traditional institutions, especially at the grassroot level. 

The inclusion and involvement of Traditional institutions and stakeholders by the UNFPA/UNICEF joint program in Nigeria has seen to the public declaration of abandonment of FGM by communities where the programme has been implemented since 2015 in the five focus states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun, and Oyo). 

The eight roles that traditional institutions play in the abandonment of FGM include, but are not limited to;

Role of Traditional Institutions:

  1. Creation of enabling environments for EndFGM advocates.
  2. fusion of political, legislative, or executive stakeholders during public declarations of abandonment of FGM.
  3. ensure the implementation of the new laws. 
  4. influence their followers towards positive change due to their popularity and social currency. 
  5. ensure the sustenance of their cultural heritages while reforming and changing certain aspects of the customs considered to be harmful.
  6. Oversee the FGM Abandonment process from community dialogue to public declaration.  
  7. provide cultural acceptance of new laws/ social norms of keeping the girl and woman intact.
  8. Encourage neighboring communities to embrace social changes and development.

The first Public Declaration of the Abandonment of FGM in Nigeria happened on 19th June 2017 in Izzi clan comprising of 3 LGAs in Ebonyi State, and it was made possible through the collaboration with traditional institution called the Izzi Traditional Rulers Council.   

As we celebrate the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD), held on 8th March, with the campaign theme #EachforEqual”, let us remember that “Traditional Institutions have a role to play in Ending FGM through a gender equal world”. Let’s be #EachforEqual.  

At this point, I will stop the conversation so we can reflect on the key points discussed as I entertain any questions.

Thanks for being part of the conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm. Visit our for more info and updates on FGM, and kindly follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms.  @Endcuttinggirls 

Together, we will end FGM in this generation. Once again, Korikiye Teke (@Her_petiteness) your Anchor for Todays Tweet Conference.